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Virginia Highway Safety Office News Releases

Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Media Contact: Melanie Stokes
Department of Motor Vehicles
(804) 367-6623

Motorists Urged to Drive Safely During Upcoming Holiday
Thanksgiving is one of the Deadliest Times on Virginia's Roads

RICHMOND - During the Thanksgiving holiday, travelers are eager to get to their destinations. College students are rushing to see friends and get home, and parents grow tired of hearing, 'When are we going to get there?'

"If you mix this sense of urgency with heavy traffic and distractions, you realize why Thanksgiving is one of the deadliest times of the year on Virginia's highways," said John Saunders, Director of DMV's Virginia Highway Safety Office.

Twelve people died (2.4 per day) on Virginia's roads during the five-day Thanksgiving holiday last year. Nineteen people were killed in 2007 (3.8 per day), and 16 died in Thanksgiving traffic crashes in 2006 (3.2 per day.) Comparatively, there were 1.25 fatalities per day for the New Year's holiday period last year, and 1.75 per day for the 2008 Labor Day holiday.

"To reduce needless crashes and deaths, we urge motorists to be attentive, maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of them, and allow additional time to get to their destinations," Saunders said. "We know drivers have a better chance of avoiding a crash, injury or even death if they are buckled up and paying attention."

In Virginia, there were 29,545 crashes attributed to driver distraction in 2008, and 28,969 in 2007. More than 2,500 of those each year were caused by driver fatigue and more than 1,500 were attributed to cell phone use.

"Drivers need to get plenty of rest before getting behind the wheel," Saunders said. "They should take frequent breaks. If drivers are feeling drowsy, they should stop and rest, and not drive."

Looking back at the 2008, 2007 five-day Thanksgiving reporting period:

  • Most dangerous time on the road -- between 3 and 6 p.m.
  • Four fatalities occurred between 3 and 6 p.m. in 2008, five in 2007
  • 1,407 crashes and 863 injuries during last year's Thanksgiving five-day holiday
  • The top three driver actions that contributed to those crashes
    • Following too closely
    • Failure to maintain control
    • Not having the right-of-way

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