Holiday highway fatalities decrease

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 7, 2005

Virginia rang in the New Year with a five-percent decrease in statewide traffic fatalities.

According to preliminary reports, there were 900 fatalities on Virginia’s roadways in 2004; 42 fewer than in 2003. The 2004 fatality rate is also the lowest in four years. As reported in the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Crash Facts, there were 942 fatalities in 2003; 913 fatalities in 2002; 925 in 2001; and 930 in 2000.

A Suffolk Police Department spokeswoman said Wednesday that while there were no fatalities in Suffolk on Christmas or New Year’s Day, there were at least two fatalities during what is considered the holiday season.


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Margaret Smith of the Pilot Club of Suffolk Inc., said Wednesday the club’s Safety Tree in front of the Health Department on Main Street had at least two bulbs changed from green to red indicating fatal crashes. The Safety Tree, initiated by the Pilots in 1978, is a reminder for Suffolk drivers to be careful on the roads during the holiday season. It is erected Dec. 1 and taken down Dec. 31.

&uot;Of course we think highway safety is very important,&uot; Smith said. &uot;Pilot Club International is very involved in safety worldwide. The purpose of the Safety Tree is to be a reminder to the general public to please drive safely and be more alert. The holidays are very special and we want no red lights it at all possible.&uot;

According to State Police Supt. Col. W. Steve Flaherty, the efforts of law enforcement and motorists being more safety conscientious accounted for the decline in fatalities.

&uot;For 2005, let’s work toward bringing the total fatalities to an all-time low,&uot; Flaherty said. &uot;Make it your resolution to always buckle up, secure children in an approved child restraint seat, obey the speed limits, never drink and drive, and be a conscientious and courteous driver.&uot;

One pedestrian and five motorists were killed during the 2004 Christmas holiday which began at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 23, and ended at midnight on Sunday, Dec. 26. During the five-day Christmas holiday in 2003, there were 16 fatalities.

Of the six fatalities during the 2004 Christmas holiday, five were caused by reckless driving and involved alcohol. The five vehicle fatalities occurred in the counties of Accomack, Fauquier, and Montgomery and in the cities of Virginia Beach and Newport News. The pedestrian fatality occurred in Fairfax County. The victims ranged in age from 22 to 81.

Over the 2004 New Year’s holiday, six crashes resulted in seven fatalities. The 2004 New Year’s holiday statistical counting period began at 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 31, and ended at midnight on Sunday, Jan. 2. The 2003 New Year’s holiday encompassed four days and there were 11 fatalities.

Statistical reports for the 2004 New Year’s holiday indicate that one victim was driving a motorcycle, one was a passenger in a vehicle, three were drivers, and one was a pedestrian. Information is still pending on one crash. Of the victims required to be buckled up, none were wearing safety restraints. One crash in Albemarle County resulted in two deaths, the pedestrian was killed in Chesterfield County and the motorcycle fatality occurred in Fluvanna County. The remaining crashes occurred in each of the following counties: Culpeper, Northampton and Roanoke. The victims ranged in age from 18 to 70.