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Virginia State Police emphasize New Year’s Eve holiday safety

Virginia State Police will be stepping up patrols New Year’s Eve in an effort to detect and deter impaired drivers on Virginia’s highways. Since Thanksgiving, troopers have been participating in the annual Checkpoint Strikeforce anti-DUI enforcement campaign and the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” holiday crackdown.

policecar3Respectively, both are state and national enforcement operations conducted annually during the holidays that focus on the dangers and prevention of drunk and drugged driving. More DUI patrols by state police troopers and participation in local DUI checkpoints will be taking place throughout the evening and overnight hours of Dec. 31, 2013, statewide.

As of Dec. 30, 2013, preliminary reports indicate that more than 720 individuals have lost their lives in traffic crashes on Virginia highways this year. In order to prevent anyone else from becoming another fatal statistic, it’s going to take the help and responsible decision-making of every motorist heading out for New Year’s Eve. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying yourself at a party. What is wrong is having an impaired driver making the improper choice to get behind the wheel of a vehicle and drive. If you’re going to drink, then designate a sober driver in advance to get you home safely, call a taxi, take advantage of public transportation, or simply stay put. Whatever you do, don’t drink and drive.

According to the US Department of Transportation, in 2012 nationwide, deaths in crashes involving drunk driversincreased 4.6 percent, taking 10,322 lives compared to 9,865 in 2011. The majority of those crashes involved drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or higher – nearly double the legal limit. During last year’s holiday season alone, 830 lives were lost in drunk driving crashes.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the holiday enforcement on drunk drivers comes at a time of year when crashes involving alcohol increase. Over the past decade, almost two of every five (41 percent) deaths that occur around the New Year’s holiday and the Christmas holiday (37 percent) were alcohol-impaired, compared to 31 percent nationally over the past ten years. In addition, alcohol-impaired motor vehicle crashes cost more than an estimated $37 billion annually nationwide.

In addition, drivers are reminded to always buckle up, put down the phone, and comply with speed limits. Staying alert to the traffic around, ahead, and behind you helps save lives.

With this holiday’s stepped up enforcement, all drivers are also reminded of Virginia’s “Move Over” law. It’s a life-saving law intended to protect public safety responders and others who have a responsibility to work alongside Virginia’s highways. Drivers are required by law to change to another travel lane or, when unable to, to cautiously pass emergency personnel stopped on the side of the road. The law also includes highway maintenance vehicles and tow trucks equipped with flashing amber lights.

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