Despite the challenging weather at the start of the 2014 Thanksgiving weekend in Virginia, preliminary numbers indicate a record decline in traffic fatalities over the holiday statistical counting period. From 12:01 a.m., Wednesday (Nov. 26, 2014), through midnight Sunday (Nov. 30, 2014), five fatal crashes have been reported statewide. During the 2013 five-day period, traffic crashes claimed a total of 12 lives. 1992 was the last time Virginia had only five traffic deaths during the Thanksgiving weekend.*
The five traffic deaths occurred in the cities of Radford and Virginia Beach, and the counties of Bedford, Middlesex and Roanoke. Alcohol was a factor in at least two of the five traffic deaths. Three of the drivers who died in the crashes were not wearing seat belts.
In Radford, a 60-year-old male pedestrian was walking in the road when he was struck and killed. The Virginia Beach death occurred after a 25-year-old male refused to stop for police and instead fled from the state trooper at a high rate of speed. The driver lost control, ran off the interstate and struck a tree.
“As encouraging as this significant decline in traffic deaths is for Virginia, drivers still must maintain their commitment to safe driving practices, especially as we head into the holiday season,” said Col. W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “December kicks off National Drunk & Drugged Driving Prevention Month, so we ask all motorists to only drive when sober. Even a little bit to drink can earn you a DUI and cause you to be involved in a crash.”
During the Thanksgiving weekend, Virginia State Police participated in the Operation Combined Accident Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.), a state-sponsored, national program that encourages law enforcement agencies to increase visibility and traffic enforcement efforts on major travel holidays. The stepped-up law enforcement operation was part of the new, nationwide Drive to Save Lives (#DrivetoSaveLives) campaign that aims to not only reduce traffic fatalities by 15 percent in 2014, but to also increase officer safety for those on patrol. To achieve a 15 percent reduction in the Commonwealth, there must be 111 fewer traffic deaths on Virginia’s highways this year.
As part of the 2014 Thanksgiving enforcement efforts, Virginia State Police troopers stopped 9,789 speeders and another 2,312 reckless drivers statewide. In addition, troopers arrested and charged 90 drivers for DUI. Troopers also cited 693 safety belt violations and 204 child safety seat violations. State police assisted 3,404 disabled motorists and investigated a total of 1,191 traffic crashes, five of which were fatal.
All funds generated from summonses issued by Virginia State Police go directly to court fees and the state’s Literary Fund, which benefits public school construction, technology funding and teacher retirement.