Preliminary numbers show record low traffic fatalities in Va.

By Jola Szubielski -


RICHMOND, VA (NBC12) - Stringent police enforcement and education efforts seem to be paying off. State Police and highway safety officials record a dramatic drop in the number of traffic fatalities across Virginia in 2008.

If the numbers hold steady, it'll set a record low.

State Police officials say there's no real way to pinpoint the exact reasons why they've seen a decline in numbers, but they believe drivers are finally getting the message. 

As we closed the chapter on 2007, the number of traffic fatalities was alarming. More than 1,000 Virginians lost their lives on our roadways.  2008 was a year to fight back.

"Folks are actually heeding the advice of safety advocates both in the private sector, and state agencies such as VDOT, DMV, and State Police,  all coming together in highway safety challenges and calls for action," says Sgt. Tom Cunningham of Virginia State Police.

State Police officials say the economy and sky high gas prices in early 08 could also be a factor in the record setting low number of traffic deaths.  Either way the outcome overall -- a success. 

Preliminary numbers show there were 808 traffic fatalities in 2008, that's more than 200 fewer than last year. 

That number could change in the next month and is pending on the number of people still suffering from injuries related to traffic crashes, but it's a record Virginia State Police say is a great start .

"We're certainly encouraged by the reduction, last year toward the end of the year we the numbers were significantly increasing, this is a refreshing change," says Sgt. Cunningham.

While the trend makes State Police officials hopeful, they stress drivers should not let their guard down. Enforcement is crucial, but driver compliance is key. 
"Where we really see a reduction is when each and every driver makes that effort to drive more responsibly and less aggressively," says Sgt. Cunningham.

One reason for the decline in numbers is a dramatic drop in motorcycle related deaths. They're down 39 percent from 2007. 

The increase of seatbelt use and patrols are also contributing factors.

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