Richmond, VA – Southampton County Sheriff Jack Stutts joined Governor Terry McAuliffe and more than 100 state and local law enforcement, and traffic-safety advocates at the State Capitol to officially kick off the Memorial Day and summer traffic and tourism season. The morning’s press event is one of four being held statewide Tuesday to introduce the Commonwealth to Drive to Save Lives, the nation’s first-ever traffic-safety campaign of this magnitude.
Wythe County Sheriff Doug King and Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman also participated in the day’s events on behalf of their departments the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association for events in Wytheville and Bristol.
The Drive to Save Lives campaign is two-fold: to reduce traffic deaths by 15 percent in 2014 across the country and within the Commonwealth; and to improve officer safety on our highways.
The nationwide initiative is a united effort by state police and highway patrol leaders, police chiefs and sheriffs to reduce highway crashes and fatalities. More than 33,000 deaths occur each year on our nation’s roadways. Highway fatalities rank as one of the top 12 causes of death in the United States and it is the leading cause of death among teens.
“Virginia is proud to join this nationwide traffic-safety program as a way of making our highways as safe as possible,” said Governor McAuliffe. “The Commonwealth is averaging about 30 fewer traffic deaths this year in comparison to last year. But even one death is one too many, which is why the active participation of all motorists living, working and visiting Virginia is so invaluable to the campaign’s life-saving success.”
In 2013, Virginia reported 741 deaths resulting from traffic crashes. To achieve the campaign’s 15 percent reduction in traffic fatalities in 2014, there must be 111 fewer crashes and deaths on Virginia’s highways.
“Never before has the nation’s state police and highway patrol agencies teamed up for such a comprehensive enforcement initiative,” said Col. W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “The goal to save 111 lives on Virginia’s highways is an ambitious, but necessary one. We are simply asking the public to drive to save lives, not take them.”
In order to decrease highway fatalities in Virginia, state troopers, police officers and deputy sheriffs are leading a sustained effort over the course of the year that is data driven; focuses on the use of seat-belts and speeding; and targets impaired and distracted driving. The campaign also includes enforcement actions against the unsafe driving behaviors of the operators of large trucks and buses.
“Law enforcement officers across the Commonwealth work every day to change the high-risk behaviors of motorists that lead to crashes,” said City of Charlottesville Chief Tim Longo, current president of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police Board of Directors. “Hopefully uniting with our state and local counterparts through education and awareness, partnerships, and high-visibility traffic enforcement, we can have an even greater and positive impact on the motoring public.”
“Most traffic crashes, injuries, and deaths are preventable when drivers and passengers buckle up, drive the speed limit, don’t drive distracted, and never drink and drive,” said City of Bristol, Va., Sheriff Jack Weisenburger, current president of the Virginia Sheriff’s Association Board of Directors. ” This is a message we’ve heard time and time again, but is still worth repeating. Now we’re just asking drivers and passengers to put them into action.”
Governor McAuliffe also today unveiled a new public service announcement promoting Virginia’s “Move Over” law.
In Virginia, the law requires drivers to change to another travel lane or, when not able to, to cautiously pass vehicles equipped with blue, red or amber lights and stopped on the side of the road.The Virginia General Assembly this past session also passed Senate Joint Resolution No. 102, which designates June as “Move Over Awareness Month” in the Commonwealth.
“Reducing the number of traffic crashes isn’t the only reason for this nationwide campaign,” said Governor McAuliffe. “We also have a shared responsibility to help protect the lives of public safety professionals across the Commonwealth. Virginia’s local and state law enforcement will be doing their job to make your summer travels as safe as possible. In return, do yours. Move over for them. Drive to save lives. Let’s finish 2014 with fewer crashes, fewer public safety professionals injured or killed on the job, and hopefully, 111 lives saved in Virginia.”