AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - This holiday weekend, as more people are out on the road, Virginia State Police are on extra patrol. Throughout the year, troopers participate in what are known as Operation CARE weekends, or Crash Awareness Reduction Effort on major travel weekends.
"It's not going to be as busy as it usually is, but we are expecting some extra travel," Sgt. Sean Simmons, with Virginia State Police, said.
As Virginia re-opens, the roads are filling up with traffic. While the Fourth of July is on Saturday, the entire weekend is focused on traffic safety.
“We have guys doing selective enforcement for DUI, speed, seat belts,” Sgt. Simmons said. “So we just have extra people out, and trying to make sure that people obey the speed limit, wear their seat belts and don’t drive intoxicated.”
High-traffic holidays often have police focusing on these, because all too often, drinking and driving, as well as speed, can play a role in deadly crashes.
"Statistics show that those are the things that save lives, wearing seat belts, and not having people drinking and driving, or using drugs, and the high speeds," Simmons said.
Data from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles shows during the months-long stay at home order, traffic crashes decreased by 45 percent. However, the number of fatal crashes involving both speed and drivers without seat belts has increased by 78 percent, compared to this time last year.
DMV data also shows between March 13 and May 21, speed related fatalities accounted for about 50 percent of all fatalities, which is more than last year. Of those same speed-related crashes, 70 percent were not wearing seat belts.
In the Shenandoah Valley, there were 1,477 crashes between March 13 and July 3, 2019, with 11 fatalities and 660 injuries. During the same time this year, there have been 839 crashes, with 9 fatalities and 403 injuries.