New driving campaign unveiled
Kerry O'Connor, CT News Reporter
Wednesday, October 17; 10:05 PM
This fall, the Virginia State Police, the Virginia Department of Transportation, and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles will be asking drivers to re-evaluate their driving behaviors.
The three have teamed up to create a campaign in response to an increase in Virginia traffic fatalities.
"The three agencies started looking at traffic fatalities in Virginia this year, and unfortunately, we are up again," said Melanie Stokes, DMV spokesperson.
Corinne Geller, public relations manager for the Virginia State Police, said that each agency brings something different to the campaign. The Virginia State Police department handles enforcement, VDOT handles engineering, and the DMV handles education. Through awareness efforts and enforcement, the campaign hopes to drastically reduce the number of fatalities that occur on Virginia highways.
Over 900 people are killed annually on Virginia roads and highways. Last year, 961 people died, and as of Oct. 15, 2007, 790 fatalities had been recorded. As of Oct. 15 of last year, 737 had occurred.
In addition to fatalities, one in every 91 people in Virginia is injured each year.
Those statistics have prompted the three authorities to create a campaign to increase awareness and cut down on accidents.
"We need to bring that number down. It is a public health issue to have that many people dying," said Laura Southard, a communications manager for the DMV. "Too many people and families are hurting because of this, and we as individuals can help."
One of the campaign goals is awareness. The slogan "Are You Virginia's Next Traffic Fatality," which calls drivers to become more aware, is followed by five calls to action: buckle up, avoid distractions, share the road, drive drug and alcohol free and obey speed limits. Geller said that studies show that these five behaviors are the most prominent factors leading to traffic fatalities.
"The roads themselves are not unsafe," Southard said. "It's up to every one of us to take every precaution we can. That means buckling up, that means not causing distractions and falling prey to distractions. That will help make our driving and riding experiences much safer."
The slogan will be broadcast through various media throughout Virginia. Each authority will do various commercial spots between now and Jan. 1 of next year on radio stations throughout the commonwealth, and have asked stations to broadcast the slogan after traffic reports. Also, VDOT will be broadcasting the slogan on electronic boards used on the sides of highways.
In all 73 DMV locations in the state, brochures will be offered outlining techniques to improve driving. Stickers will also be placed on the mirrors in DMV bathrooms asking people to question if they are the next Virginia traffic fatality.
These marketing techniques will be backed by enforcement provided by Virginia State Police.
"We're consistently doing different safety enforcement efforts," Geller said. "We do our part every day through presence, patrols, and checkpoints."
In addition to surveillance, the Virginia State Police have initiated programs to reduce fatalities. One such program, "Operation Air, Land, and Speed," periodically steps up the presence of police cars on various highways. One of these initiatives took place last Friday and Saturday during national "Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day" along Interstates 81 and 95.
"We're hoping the public will take up the challenge," Geller said. "Especially our college students."
While the ultimate goal of the campaign is to make Virginia highways safer, authorities have set a more specific goal of saving 100 lives by the year 2010.