RICHMOND – With most Virginians refraining from traditional vacations this year, Virginia State Police is urging those who are using the Labor Day weekend as a last chance for a getaway to do so safely and responsibly.
AAA has reported road trips to be the main mode of vacation travel this summer and with Labor Day traffic fatalities on the rise for the past three years, motorists need to stay alert, stay sober and wear their seatbelts.
“It’s really quite simple - seatbelts save lives, distractions are deadly on roadways and driving impaired is unacceptable,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police superintendent. “I understand that this year has been particularly stressful and Virginians are looking to get away. We want you and your family to reach your destination safely and throughout Virginia you can expect to see more state troopers conducting patrols to ensure that safety.”
Virginia State Police’s traffic safety and enforcement efforts are part of Operation CARE – the Crash Awareness Reduction Effort, a nationwide, state-sponsored traffic safety program that aims to reduce traffic crashes, fatalities and injuries caused by impaired driving, speeding and failing to use occupant restraints. Virginia State Police’s participation in the program begins Sept. 4, at 12:01 a.m., and continues through midnight Sept. 7.
The 2019 Labor Day weekend saw a rise in fatal crashes across the Commonwealth. A total of 17 individuals died in traffic crashes in Virginia during the 2019 four-day, holiday statistical counting period, compared to 14 deaths in 2018 and 5 deaths in 2017. In addition, according to preliminary data, as of Sept. 2, there have been 532 fatalities on Virginia highways in 2020 as compared to 531 in 2019.
“In a year where there have been fewer cars on the roads, this trend is disturbing,” said Settle. “Virginians must realize that actions have consequences and when you’re unsafe on the road, people pay the price. These are strong words, but this is a serious subject. Every day state troopers notify family members of a loved one’s death. It’s not a job we want to do and no one wants to get that knock at the door. Your safety habits can help reverse the trend and save a life.”
Drivers and passengers are encouraged to safeguard themselves by always buckling up. State police is also actively participating in the annual “Checkpoint Strikeforce,” an anti-DUI enforcement and education program sponsored by the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP). State police is one of nearly 100 law enforcement agencies conducting sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols through Labor Day in an effort to prevent and deter impaired driving and DUI/DUID-related crashes. In addition, state police reminds all motorists to drive phone- and distraction-free.