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Posted on Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Metro Richmond– As motorists gear up for that last minute trip to the store or to a relative’s house for the upcoming holidays, Virginia State Police urges everyone to click that safety belt, drive sober, and get plenty of sleep.

Since Jan. 1, 2011, preliminary figures show that the Virginia State Police Richmond Division (www.vsp.state.va.us/Office_Locations_Map_Div1.shtm) has investigated 77 separate fatal crashes which have taken the lives of 91 individuals; whereas in 2010, Richmond Division troopers investigated 71 separate fatal crashes in which 77 individuals were killed.   Statewide between Jan. 1, 2011 and Dec. 21, 2011, a total of 727 individuals have died onVirginia roadways, compared to 711 the same time last year.

The trend this year shows that the increase in fatalities can be attributed to crashes involving multiple fatalities, motorists’ persistent failure to buckle up, failure to heed the warning to not drink and drive, and getting behind the wheel while fatigued.  Since Jan.1, 2011, of those required to use a safety belt, 41 were not restrained compared to 42 in 2010.  Preliminarily, in 2011, 17 fatal crashes investigated by troopers in the Richmond Division, involved alcohol compared to 18 in 2010.  Statewide in 2010, troopers arrested nearly 5,800 motorists for driving under the influence.

According to Captain Steven L. Chumley, Richmond Division Commander, “It is unfortunate to see this increase in 2011 of individuals being killed in traffic crashes, especially within the Metro-Richmond region.  We hope in reminding motorists ahead of their holiday travels and celebrations to always buckle up, drive sober and drive well-rested will help save additional lives between now and the end of the year. During this time of year, we want you to have a safe and happy holiday season with your friends and family.”

According to the 2010 DMV Traffic Crash Facts, of the 740 persons killed statewide, 274 motorists died as the result of an alcohol-related crash, 29 died as a result of a fatigued driver, and 307 died from not wearing their safety belt.

Virginia State Police are also participating in Checkpoint Strikeforce (http://www.checkpointstrikeforce.net) during the remaining weeks of December through the first of January. Troopers are conducting roving enforcement patrols on designated roadways as well as sobriety checkpoints statewide. State police are just one of several state and local law enforcement agencies participating in the annual campaign to raise public awareness throughout the Mid-Atlantic region about the deadly dangers of drunk driving.

Motorists are also reminded to dial #77 on a cellular phone to contact aVirginiaStatePoliceCommunicationCenterin case of an emergency.  Motorists can report a crash, disabled vehicle, reckless driver or suspected drunk driver.