RICHMOND – As millions of Virginians take to the roads this Thanksgiving to celebrate the holiday with family, Virginia State Police urges motorists to slow down and keep their focus on the road so everyone makes it safely to the holiday table.
Four lives were lost Friday in three fatal crashes across the Commonwealth. Over the past seven days (November 9 to 15), traffic crashes have claimed 17 lives on Virginia highways, including a motorcyclist, two pedestrians, four passengers and 10 drivers. Sadly, eight of those individuals were killed in crashes where speed or reckless driving was a factor.
While fatalities in crashes involving distracted driving are down by approximately 37 percent, according to preliminary data, total traffic deaths remain on pace with last year. Through November 15, 712 individuals have lost their lives in traffic crashes compared to 724 over the same period in 2017.
“When you get behind the wheel this Thanksgiving, remember the cars on the road with you are carrying someone’s loved ones, and the choices you make in the driver’s seat affect your family and theirs,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Avoid distractions, comply with speed limits, ensure everyone in your car is buckled up and never drive drunk. If we drive like every car is filled with our friends and family, we can make sure there are no empty chairs at the table this year.”
Speed-related fatalities have already outpaced last year with 291 fatalities, rising by nine percent. Fatalities involving unrestrained drivers remain relatively flat with 298 unbelted motorists killed so far in 2018 compared to 301 during the same period in 2017.
In 2017, 248 people were killed as a result of alcohol-related crashes throughout the state. If holiday celebrations involve alcohol, remember to always plan for a designated driver, cab or rideshare.
To help prevent traffic deaths and injuries during the Thanksgiving holiday, the Virginia State Police will once again be participating in Operation C.A.R.E., an acronym for the Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort. The state-sponsored, national program encourages law enforcement agencies to increase visibility and traffic enforcement efforts on major travel holidays. Over the five-day statistical counting period (November 21 to 25), state police will increase its visibility and traffic enforcement efforts on highways throughout the Commonwealth.
The 2017 Thanksgiving Holiday C.A.R.E. initiative resulted in troopers citing 611 individuals who failed to obey the law and buckle up, as well as issuing 206 citations for child safety seat violations on Virginia’s highways statewide. In addition, state police cited 8,181 speeders and 2,479 reckless drivers. A total of 105 drunken drivers were taken off Virginia’s roadways and arrested by state troopers.
There were 14 traffic fatalities statewide during the five-day statistical counting period (November 22 to 26) for the 2017 Thanksgiving Holiday, marking the highest number of holiday fatalities since
2013. Less than half of the individuals killed in holiday crashes last year were wearing seat belts. Six of those deaths occurred in alcohol-related crashes.
In 2016, there were eight traffic deaths and in 2015, Virginia experienced nine fatalities on highways during the holiday weekend.
With increased patrols, State Police also reminds drivers of Virginia’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road. If unable to move over, drivers are required to cautiously pass the emergency vehicle. The law also applies to workers in vehicles equipped with amber lights.
From 2008 to 2017 nationwide, 126 law enforcement officers working along the roadside were struck by a vehicle because a driver failed to heed the “Move Over” law.