RICHMOND – With one-third of all U.S. traffic deaths over the Labor Day holiday weekend involving drunk drivers, and Virginia averaging a double-digit number of traffic fatalities during that time, Governor McAuliffe today joined other top state officials to outline plans to keep the commonwealth’s roadways safe this weekend and beyond. Estimates project that nearly one million Virginians will travel this Labor Day holiday weekend, with the majority of those traveling on Virginia roadways.
Governor McAuliffe joined officials from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, Virginia State Police, AAA Mid-Atlantic, and the Virginia-based Washington Regional Alcohol Program to announce markedly stepped-up law enforcement throughout Virginia to counter Labor Day’s historically deadly toll, including the participation of nearly 200 local law enforcement agencies along with State Police area offices deploying hundreds of anti-drunk driving efforts under the banner of the 16th annual traffic safety campaign.
“While I want every Virginian to enjoy their Labor Day weekend, they must do so without endangering themselves or other travelers on our roads,” said Governor McAuliffe. “As in years past, this strikeforce campaign ensures that individuals who choose to break the law and drive under the influence will be caught and be prosecuted. Those penalties include mandatory ignition interlock installation on the offender’s vehicle, as well as fines up to $2,500, suspension periods up to one year, and jail sentences also up to one year.”
Over the 2015 Labor Day holiday period, one third (33%) of all U.S. traffic fatalities involved drivers who were impaired (.08+ blood alcohol concentration), according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In Virginia, the Commonwealth averaged 11 traffic fatalities during the Labor Day holiday periods between 2010 and 2016, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Started in 2002, Virginia’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign is part of a research-based multi-state, zero-tolerance initiative designed to get impaired drivers off the roads using checkpoints and patrols along with education about the dangers and consequences of driving while intoxicated. While aiming to reach all potential drunk drivers, the statewide enforcement and education campaign specifically focuses on men aged 21 to 35, a demographic representing nearly one-third of all persons killed in Virginia’s alcohol-related traffic crashes last year.
Nearly 200 local law enforcement agencies along with Virginia State Police area offices are participating in Virginia’s 2017 Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign. In tandem with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” enforcement mobilization, Virginia law enforcement members will be conducting approximately 150 sobriety checkpoints and 520 saturation patrols this week through the 2017 Labor Day holiday period.
“Under the unifying Checkpoint Strikeforce banner, state police and our local law enforcement partners across Virginia will be deploying high visibility enforcement efforts to identify and apprehend impaired drivers,” said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb. “This statewide, highway and public safety effort is important as to-date this year, Virginia has, unfortunately, experienced nearly 50 more traffic fatalities than this same time last year.”
In addition to a significant multimedia campaign featuring approximately 37,500 campaign ads running on nearly 70 television, cable and radio stations in Virginia as well as both movie theater and digital advertising in the Commonwealth, Virginia’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign incorporates a stepped-up law enforcement effort to promote a multijurisdictional fight against drunk driving. State and local police increase visibility through sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols. Last year, 19,925 people were convicted of DUI in Virginia.
Virginia’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign is supported by a grant from DMV, the Virginia Highway Safety Office to the nonprofit and Falls Church-based Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP).