Traffic deaths in Virginia decline 13 percent in ’09

Kaine attributes increased safety to increased seat-belt usage

Staff Report
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Gov. Tim Kaine today noted that as of Nov. 30, 2009, preliminary data indicates there were 98 fewer traffic fatalities in Virginia compared to this same time period last year, a decline of 13 percent. The 821 traffic fatalities recorded for 2008 were the lowest since 1966.

“It’s clear that our coordinated efforts, and the increased use of seat belts, are having a positive effect on the number of traffic deaths in Virginia,” Kaine said. “While I am gratified to see our efforts paying off, we must continue to be vigilant and careful to ensure that this trend continues.”

“Although we are pleased with this downward trend, the only number of preventable traffic deaths we can accept is zero,” said John Saunders, director of DMV’s Virginia Highway Safety Office. “We cannot become lax in our safe driving behaviors with the knowledge that two people die and more than 180 are injured every day on Virginia’s roads.”

Many factors may have contributed to the recent decline including the coordinated effort by state agencies and local and non-profit organizations to reduce the Commonwealth’s traffic fatalities. In September 2009, Kaine awarded more than $13.5 million in federal grants to local, nonprofit and state organizations that work to reduce the number of traffic deaths and injuries on the Commonwealth’s roadways.

The VAHSO receives nearly 300 grant requests annually and works closely with recipients to measure progress towards established objectives. Future funding requests are approved based on progress toward these objectives. Traffic safety programs that receive grant funds work toward:
· increasing safety belt and child safety seat usage;
· deterring impaired and aggressive driving;
· lowering motorcycle, bicycle and pedestrian injuries and fatalities;
· promoting awareness of risks for teen and senior drivers.

The VAHSO partners with the Virginia State Police and local law enforcement for the periodic “Click It or Ticket” safety belt enforcement mobilization. DMV also assists the State Police by funding Operation Air, Land and Speed, an enforcement effort conducted periodically on Virginia’s interstates. DMV partners with law enforcement agencies and Checkpoint Strikeforce for a coordinated enforcement and media effort aimed at reducing drunk driving.

Additionally, a higher-than-ever seatbelt rate may be a factor in the recent decline in traffic fatalities. A survey revealed the Virginia seat belt use rate for May 2009 as 82.27 percent, the highest rate ever.

“A single traffic death can impact hundreds of friends, family members and acquaintances,” Saunders said. “One life saved on our highways is significant. We will continue to work with the Commonwealth’s safety partners to further this positive trend throughout 2009 and 2010.”


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