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Virginia Highway Safety Office News Releases

Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Media Contact: Melanie Stokes
Department of Motor Vehicles
(804) 367-6623

Virginia Records Lowest Number of Traffic Fatalities Ever
Enforcement, Awareness Programs Aid Decrease

RICHMOND - Preliminary data indicates there were 750 traffic fatalities in Virginia last year, the lowest number in one year since traffic deaths began being recorded in 1966. The number is nearly a 27 percent decrease in fatalities from the high of 1,026 traffic deaths in 2007.

Many factors may have contributed to the reduction in deaths, including increased seat belt use. A survey conducted by Old Dominion University of 23,758 vehicle occupants revealed the Virginia seat belt use rate for May 2009 as 82.27 percent, the highest rate ever. It was 79.9 percent in 2007.

"There is no question that seatbelts save lives," said John Saunders, Director of DMV's Virginia Highway Safety Office (VAHSO). "If you don't wear a seat belt, your chances of dying or being injured in a vehicle crash are significantly higher. The first thing everyone should do when they get into a vehicle is buckle up. It should be automatic."

The downward trend can also be attributed to the coordinated effort by many state government agencies and non-profit organizations to reduce the Commonwealth's traffic fatalities. For example, the VAHSO partners with the Virginia State Police and local law enforcement for:

  • The Click It or Ticket safety belt enforcement mobilization
  • Operation Air, Land and Speed, an enforcement effort conducted periodically on Virginia's roadways
  • Checkpoint Strikeforce, a media and enforcement campaign aimed at preventing drunk driving

"Every life counts and the only acceptable number of deaths on our roadways is zero," Saunders said. "While this decrease in traffic deaths is good news, we cannot become complacent. Driving is serious business. We must give the task of driving our full attention whenever we are behind the wheel."

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