RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Preliminary reports indicate nine individuals lost their lives in nine traffic crashes during the 2011 Thanksgiving holiday weekend. State Police increased its visibility and traffic enforcement efforts during the heavily-traveled holiday which began at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday (Nov. 23) and continued through midnight, Sunday (Nov. 27). During the 2010 holiday weekend, 10 motorists died in traffic crashes on Virginia's highways.
Of the nine individuals killed during the 2011 Thanksgiving holiday, five were not wearing seatbelts.
"What makes this so troubling is that law enforcement just participated in a statewide Click-It-or-Ticket project the previous week – which is an educational and enforcement campaign aimed at increasing seatbelt usage in Virginia," says Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent. "Sadly, half of the traffic crashes involved victims who weren't buckled up. As we begin this holiday season, public safety responders are strongly encouraging driver and passenger to take two seconds and fasten your seatbelt – it costs nothing and could save your life."
The Thanksgiving holiday crashes occurred in the counties of Appomattox, Chesterfield, Hanover, Henry, Loudoun, Rappahannock and Washington. Two of the nine fatalities occurred in the cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach. One fatality involved a pedestrian and another involved a motorcyclist. Alcohol was a factor in two of the crashes. Those killed ranged in ages from 17 to 54.
As part of the 2011 Thanksgiving Operation C.A.R.E. initiative, 75 percent of state police's uniformed workforce was on patrol during the five-day statistical counting period. Operation C.A.R.E. is the acronym for Combined Accident Reduction Effort and is a nationwide, state-sponsored campaign intended to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries caused by speeding, impaired driving and failure to wear seatbelts by drivers and passengers.
In addition, state police arrested 103 drunk drivers during the Thanksgiving weekend. Troopers cited 8,526 speeders and 2,898 reckless drivers on Virginia's highways statewide. Another 687 summonses were issued to individuals who failed to buckle up and 250 child safety-restraints were issued. Troopers also investigated 884 traffic crashes across the Commonwealth during the five-day period.
Funds generated from summonses issued by Virginia State Police go directly to court fees and the state's Literary Fund, which benefits public school construction, technology funding and teacher retirement.