Traffic fatalities decline

Published 9:51 pm Saturday, April 2, 2011

Traffic safety advocates around the country had reason to celebrate on the first day of April.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Friday that the number of traffic fatalities nationwide had fallen to its lowest level since 1949.

Likewise, in Virginia, last year’s 739 fatalities is the lowest yearly number in Virginia since traffic fatalities began being recorded in 1966. It marks the third consecutive yearly decrease in the state after a record high of 1,026 traffic deaths in 2007.

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“While we can all celebrate this positive news, the next time we get behind the wheel, we must remember that each and every driver in Virginia is responsible for keeping our roadways safe,” said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb. “A few simple reminders — buckle up, pay attention and don’t drive impaired — can go a long way in saving lives.”

Safety officials speculated that improved driver behavior, more safety features in vehicles and increased efforts by safety advocates resulted in the decline.

“Virginians are making safe driving a priority,” Holcomb said. “And the coordinated efforts by many state government agencies and their partners to reduce the commonwealth’s traffic fatalities are working.”

Some of the safety programs include Checkpoint Strikeforce, a media and enforcement campaign aimed at preventing drunk driving, and Operation Air, Land and Speed, a state police enforcement effort conduct periodically on Virginia’s interstates.

DMV and state police also partner with local law enforcement for the periodic Click It or Ticket safety belt enforcement program.