State and local authorities join in holiday safety campaign

With the extended 2016 Thanksgiving holiday weekend just days away, and Christmas not far behind, Virginia State Police, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office and police departments countywide are once again coming together to promote and enforce holiday roadway safety.
The Thanksgiving travel period is typically the busiest annual roadway travel event, and unfortunately, with the increase in motorists comes an increase in crash-related fatalities, injuries and damage to property.
Police remind travelers that using common sense approaches to driving and abiding by posted roadway regulations are key combatants to becoming or creating a statistic.
From Jan. 1, 2016, to Nov. 17, 2016, traffic crashes statewide resulted in 629 deaths, compared to 661 during the same period in 2015.
“For the year, traffic deaths continue to decline in comparison to this time last year,” said Col. W. Steven Flaherty, superintendent with Virginia State Police. “But because of the alarming number of fatalities within just the past week and millions estimated to be traveling nationwide during Thanksgiving weekend, we need everyone to make the effort to drive smart, safe, sober and buckled up when behind the wheel of a vehicle. We are asking everyone to drive to save lives.”
Sgt. T.A. Clary with the Area 22 Virginia State Police headquarters located in South Hill, confirms for the Enterprise that local enforcement initiatives will mirror those of others statewide this weekend.
“As always, we are encouraging a zero tolerance mindset for driving after consuming alcohol, and random highway safety checks are often one of the best preventives when combating drunk or buzzed driving and are also effective in the removal of non-compliant drivers from Virginia roadways,” Clary said. “Echoing the colonel, we strongly encourage safe, sober and common sense driving this weekend and year-round. Our enforcement efforts are not designed to take the fun out of a special occasion but rather to ensure that everyone arrives at their destination and returns home safely and ready to prepare for the coming Christmas Holiday.”
To help prevent traffic deaths and injuries during the Thanksgiving holiday, Virginia State Police will once again be participating in Operation C.A.R.E., an acronym for the Combined Accident Reduction Effort.
“Operation C.A.R.E. is a state-sponsored, national program designed to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries caused by speeding, impaired driving and failure to use occupant restraints,” Clary said. “As a participating agency, State Police will increase its visibility and traffic enforcement efforts throughout the Commonwealth beginning Wednesday, Nov. 23, at 12:01 a.m. and continuing through midnight Sunday, Nov. 27.”
Mecklenburg County Sheriff Bobby Hawkins concurred, noting that in addition to sober driving and obeying all speed and other roadway regulations, keeping one’s eyes on the road and awareness of surroundings, including other drivers and possible highway hazards, are keys to safety during the extended holiday travel period.
“The increase in cell phone-related crashes is alarming to say the least,” Hawkins said. “It is of utmost importance for drivers to practice a zero tolerance rule for texting while driving, adjusting radios, eating, drinking and engaging in any activity that detracts from attentiveness behind the wheel. We encourage parents and guardians to set the example for young drivers and all passengers.
“We are watching for infractions of any sort, and we will enforce the laws in an effort to promote safety for everyone traveling this Thanksgiving.”
Motorists are also reminded to observe Virginia’s “Move Over” law, a life-saving initiative designed to protect public safety responders and others working Virginia roadways. Drivers are required by law to change to another travel lane when passing any and all emergency personnel stopped on the side of a Virginia roadway, or when unable to make the change, to pass with caution.
The law also includes highway maintenance vehicles and tow trucks equipped with flashing amber lights.