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Traffic fatalities down 13 percent this year

Traffic fatalities were down 13 percent in Virginia in the first 11 months of the year, a drop of 98 from the number of deaths in the same period of 2008. The 821 fatalities recorded in 2008 were the lowest number since 1966.

“Although we are pleased with this downward trend, the only number of preventable traffic deaths we can accept is zero,” said John Saunders, Director of the Virginia Highway Safety Office (VAHSO) in the Department of Motor Vehicles. “We cannot become lax in our safe driving behaviors with the knowledge that two people die and more than 180 are injured every day on Virginia’s roads.”

The drop in fatalities coincided with the highest rate of seat-belt use, 82.27 percent, ever recorded in the state.

“It’s clear that our coordinated efforts, and the increased use of seat belts, are having a positive effect on the number of traffic deaths in Virginia,” Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said. “While I am gratified to see our efforts paying off, we must continue to be vigilant and careful to ensure that this trend continues.”

In September 2009, Kaine awarded more than $13.5 million in federal grants to local, non-profit and state organizations that work to reduce the number of traffic deaths and injuries.

The VAHSO works with the Virginia State Police and local law enforcement for the periodic “Click It or Ticket” safety belt enforcement mobilization. DMV also assists state police by funding Operation Air, Land and Speed, an enforcement effort conducted periodically on Virginia’s interstates. DMV works with law enforcement agencies and Checkpoint Strikeforce for a coordinated enforcement and media effort aimed at reducing drunken driving.

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