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Memorial Day safety: VSP encourages motorists to follow laws

Holiday traffic crashes results in numerous fatalities

5/21/2014, 11:22 a.m.

With record numbers of motorists forecasted to travel through Virginia this Memorial Day weekend, the Virginia State Police (VSP) is urging all Virginians and visitors to drive to save lives.

In an effort to reduce traffic crashes, injuries and deaths over the Memorial Day weekend, VSP will once again be stepping up patrols as part of the annual Operation C.A.R.E., (Combined Accident Reduction Effort), which begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday, May 23, and ends at midnight Monday, May 26.

The state-sponsored, national program encourages law enforcement agencies to increase visibility and traffic enforcement efforts on major travel holidays. Traditionally, May leads the year with having the most fatal traffic crashes than any other month.

According to the DMV Virginia Traffic Crash Facts report, May 2012 proved to be the deadliest month for Virginia’s highways with 74 fatal traffic crashes claiming 79 lives. The month also led the year with having the most traffic crashes resulting in injuries – 4,080. In 2011, it was the second deadliest month of the year with 66 fatal traffic crashes claiming 74 lives. During the 2013 Memorial Day weekend, nine people died in traffic crashes statewide. In 2012, 11 people lost their lives over the four-day holiday reporting period.

“The Memorial Day weekend is not only one of the most traveled weekends of the year, but also signals the start of summer vacations and the main tourism season in Virginia,” said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, VSP superintendent. “To best safeguard our highways during these busy times, the Virginia State Police will be stepping up its enforcement presence and partnering with our local law enforcement and neighboring state police and highway patrol agencies for special traffic-safety initiatives.”

The stepped-up law enforcement operations are part of the new, nationwide Drive to Save Lives 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 Virginia, there must be 111 fewer traffic deaths on Virginia’s highways this year.

The Operation C.A.R.E. program is among those traffic-safety initiatives included in the Drive to Save Lives campaign. During the 2013 Operation C.A.R.E. initiative resulted in 12,021 speeders and 2,610 reckless drivers being stopped, and 106 drunk drivers being taken off the road and arrested. Troopers also cited 1,144 safety belt violations and 338 child safety seat violations. State police investigated a total of 473 traffic crashes, nine of which were fatal.

As state police increase patrols on Virginia’s highways for the holiday weekend, motorists are reminded of Virginia’s Move Over law. The statewide law requires drivers to either move over a lane or, when unable to, to cautiously pass all emergency personnel stopped on the side of a road. The law also applies to emergency response vehicles, highway maintenance vehicles and tow trucks equipped with flashing amber lights.