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Police will be out in full force this weekend as nearly a million drivers are expected to travel for the Fourth of July holiday.
Virginia State Police began increasing patrols Friday as part of Operation CARE (Combined Accident Reduction Effort), a state-sponsored national program intended to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries due to impaired driving, speed and failing to wear a seat belt.
Last year, 11 deaths were reported on Virginia roads due to car accidents on the Independence Day weekend, according to VSP superintendent Col. W. Steven Flaherty. All the fatalities were not wearing seat belts at the time of the crash.
“We will do our part to patrol and reduce the number of negligent drivers but motorists need to do theirs,” he said in a news release. “Safe driving begins with each driver following the rules of the road – this includes never driving impaired and wearing your seatbelt.”
Last year, state troopers arrested 77 drunk drivers and cited 11,705 speeders and 2,688 reckless drivers in Virginia. 566 crashes were reported.
AAA is expecting a record 1.2 million people across Virginia to travel during the holiday, and 998,430 of those will be traveling by car.
“Independence Day is typically the busiest summer travel holiday for this reason, and more Virginian families are planning a holiday getaway than any year since 2007,” said Georjeane Blumling, AAA’s vice president of public affairs for the mid-Atlantic region.
She offered several tips for drivers heading out during the holiday, including wearing a seat belt, checking the weather forecast along the planned route and sharing driving duties with other passengers.
The Virginia Department of Transportation has lifted many road closures along the state’s major highways, including High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, to allow for better and quicker travel.
State police have also been stressing Virginia’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle or work vehicle parked on the side of the road.
Locally in James City County, law enforcement will be increasing patrols to catch drunken drivers and speeders from Friday to Sunday night, said Stephanie Williams, a spokesperson with the James City County Police Department.