Editorial – Buckle up this weekend

Published 3:52 pm Tuesday, May 23, 2023

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Memorial Day has morphed over the years from a solemn day of reflection on those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country to a long weekend of revelry and the unofficial kickoff of summer.

As long as Americans take at least a few minutes to remember and be grateful for those who died in war, we won’t judge anyone for enjoying an extra day off work and having fun in the process.

We do hope they’ll be safe in the process. Statistics show Memorial Day weekend to be one of the busiest and deadliest periods on America’s roads and highways.

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The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, AAA Mid-Atlantic local law enforcement and Virginia State Police are again focused on saving lives through increased seat belt use by participating in the national Click It or Ticket campaign, which runs through June 4. 

AAA predicts that more than 42 million Americans will travel for the long holiday Day weekend. That’s just 1% shy of the holiday travel numbers from the pre-COVID days of 2019. Nearly 90% of all travelers, or about 37 million people, will be on the roads. Here at home, 1.16 million Virginians will be traveling, with more than one million of them predicted to be hitting the roads.

“The roads of Virginia will be very busy this weekend with holiday travelers, and that means there’s a greater potential for crashes,” says Morgan Dean, AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesperson. “We want everyone to be safe. We encourage drivers to limit distractions, obey the speed limit, and make sure they buckle up everyone in the vehicle before they set out on that Great American Road Trip.”

More than 18% of Virginians still don’t wear their seat belt, according to the state’s most recent seat belt survey. In Virginia during 2022, there were 5,427 unrestrained people involved in crashes, 3,702 unrestrained injuries and 375 deaths involving unrestrained people.

Last year, roughly half of all crash fatalities in Virginia involved occupants who did not wear a seat belt. People ages 21 to 30 made up 68% of unrestrained fatalities, and the highest number (70%) of unrestrained fatalities happened between midnight and 3 a.m.

These statistics can improve with just a little cooperation from motorists.

Law enforcement will support DMV’s seat belt awareness messaging by conducting high-visibility enforcement along busy roads and highways to prevent avoidable crashes and save lives.

“Buckling up is not merely a legal obligation,” said Col. Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police superintendent. “Wearing a seat belt is an act of self-preservation. Moreover, the impact of wearing seat belts extends beyond our own lives. It sets an example for others, especially our young people who are observing our behaviors and learning from our actions. Simply click it and avoid the ticket.”