RICHMOND – Gov. Ralph Northam today designated April in Virginia as Highway Safety Month. With highway fatalities alarmingly on the rise in the commonwealth and nationwide, Gov. Northam called on his public safety and transportation agencies to coordinate efforts to elevate awareness to save lives.
In 2017, 843 people died on Virginia’s roadways, a 20 percent increase over the commonwealth’s low of 700 highway deaths in 2014.
"The month of April is our opportunity as a commonwealth to recommit ourselves to making sure that every one who uses our roads gets where they’re going safely," said Gov. Northam. "We can all work to decrease deaths on our roadways by making conscious decisions to obey traffic laws and being mindful of the consequences of dangerous decisions. The only acceptable number of highway deaths is zero.”
During each week in April, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and Virginia State Police will work with the commonwealth’s vast network of safety partners to call the public’s attention to behaviors that lead to crashes, injuries, and fatalities. The coordinated, high-visibility effort will remind all Virginians how to stay safe while in vehicles, on motorcycles and bicycles, and when walking or running.
“Last year, 114 pedestrians were killed in Virginia. As motorists and pedestrians, we need to be mindful and respectful of each other by sharing the road,” said Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran. “These are tragedies that are completely preventable. During the first week in April, through radio, television, social media, and scheduled programs, we will focus attention on road users that state data indicates are particularly vulnerable – pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists.”
In 2017, Virginia recorded 26,000 crashes resulting in 208 deaths stemming from some sort of driver inattention behind the wheel.
“Texting while driving, although against Virginia law, continues to be one of the leading factors in distracted driving crashes, and is one of the most visible unsafe motorist behaviors,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “While a driver is distracted, he or she may not be able to react to a changing environment on the road.”
April 9 through 14 is Work Zone Safety Awareness Week. VDOT has planned a series of activities to remind motorists to slow down in work zones and that safety is everyone’s responsibility. April is also national Distracted Driving Awareness Month and Virginia will announce the winner of DMV’s Take Action Against Distraction license plate design contest for high school students. Distracted driving is an increasing threat to road users. The Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance and Drive Smart Virginia are partnering on statewide radio commercials to raise awareness of distracted driving.
The final week of the month will focus on the critical importance of seatbelt usage, maintaining safe speeds, and driving sober.