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State Police Stress Safety And Common Sense This Holiday Weekend

As America prepares to celebrate its 234th birthday, Virginia State Police are encouraging motorists to play it safe when planning Independence Day road trips and festivities. Last year during the Fourth of July holiday weekend, traffic crashes on Virginia’s roadways claimed the lives of nine individuals, according to Corinne Geller, Virginia State Police public relations manager. State police also arrested 129 impaired drivers during the 2009 holiday weekend, she said.

“There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the Independence Day weekend by hosting or attending holiday festivities,” said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police superintendent.

“However, partygoers and hosts need to plan ahead and make safe, responsible choices when it comes to alcohol consumption. Impaired driving is deadly driving.”

In all of last year across the commonwealth, 316 people lost their lives and another 6,256 people were injured in 9,366 alcohol-related crashes, according to data from the Virginia Highway Safety Office.

The most high-risk populations for driving under the influence or those drivers under the age of 21, between the ages of 21 and 34, and repeat DUI offenders, National Traffic Safety Administration officials said.

To safeguard from drinking and driving, Geller said make alternate plans in advance. “Assign a designated driver among your friends,” she said. “Make arrangements to have someone who is not drinking take you to and from your party destination.”

Deterrence and detection of drunk and drugged drivers will be a focal point for Virginia State Police enforcement over the July 4 holiday weekend, Geller said.

“Through Operation Combined Accident Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.), a state-sponsored, national program, troopers will be on patrol statewide in an effort to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries caused by impaired driving, speeding and failure to use occupant restraints,” she explained.

“As a part of this annual enforcement campaign, troopers will increase their visibility and traffic enforcement efforts throughout Halifax County and across the commonwealth beginning Friday, July 2, at 12:01 a.m. and continuing through midnight on Monday, July 5,” said State Police First Sergeant J. N. Lane.

During the July 4 Operation C.A.R.E three-day statistical counting period last year, Virginia State Police statewide investigated 563 traffic crashes and assisted 2,313 motorists, Geller said.

In addition, troopers stopped 7,398 speeders and 2,140 reckless drivers. State police also issued 949 summonses for people failing to buckle up and/or properly secure their children, she added.

Motorists also are reminded of the changes to Virginia’s “Move Over” law that went into effect July 1, Geller said.

“The old law required motorists to move over a travel lane or, when unable to safely do so, to proceed with caution when passing an emergency vehicle stopped on the side of the road,” Geller explained. “As of July 1, the law was expanded to include towing, repair and highway maintenance vehicles displaying amber-colored flashing lights.”