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DMV issues weekend warning

Despite the fact that alcohol-related traffic deaths have generally fallen in Virginia during the past 30 years or so, Memorial Day weekend continues to be one of the deadliest holidays on Virginia’s roadways, according to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

Seven people died in traffic crashes during the four-day 2009 Memorial Day holiday, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles’ Virginia Highway Safety Office. The previous two years’ numbers were far worse: Eighteen people died during the four-day weekend in 2008, and 16 died in 2007.

“This Memorial Day weekend, you can help save lives by buckling up, obeying the speed limit and being attentive,” said VAHSO Director John Saunders.

DMV’s Highway Safety Office reminds motorists to:

Arrive at your destination early to avoid nighttime driving.

Stop and rest at least every two hours to avoid driver fatigue.

Give your full attention to the task of driving.

“Virginia has been experiencing a downward trend in traffic fatalities during the past few years, and we hope this trend continues for the Memorial Day weekend and beyond,” said DMV Commissioner Rick Holcomb, the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative.

As of May 15, there were 244 traffic deaths on Virginia’s roads, compared to 255 for the same time period in 2009. Last year saw the lowest number of traffic fatalities in one year, 756, since traffic deaths began being recorded in 1966. The 2009 number of deaths is nearly a 27-percent decrease in fatalities from the high of 1,026 traffic deaths in 2007.

However, motorcycle and pedestrian deaths are on the rise so far this year. As of May 15, 21 motorcyclists have died on Virginia’s roads, compared to 16 for the same time period in 2009. In addition, 29 pedestrians have died in Virginia since May 15, compared to 23 during this time period last year.

The VAHSO reports that more than 70 percent of the motorcycle fatalities recorded so far this year are attributable to the rider’s action. “Motorcycle riders are advised to receive the proper training and wear the proper gear, and automobile drivers are encouraged to share the road with motorcyclists,” Holcomb said.

Motorists are also urged to watch out for pedestrians, especially as warmer weather approaches and more people are walking to their destinations. If you plan to walk in an area where there is vehicular traffic, here are a few safety tips to keep in mind:

When walking, wear light colors so motorists can see you.

When walking at night, reflective clothing or flashlights make you more visible to motorists.

Make sure you walk against the traffic and use of crosswalks whenever available.

When crossing a street, look left, look right and look left again.

Dusk and dawn are the most dangerous times of the day for pedestrians.