Highway safety grants awarded to Danville, Pittsylvania County


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By Denice Thibodeau

Published: September 3, 2009
The Danville Police Department and the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office have been awarded “selective enforcement” grants, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine announced in a news release Wednesday.
“Selective enforcement grants are used for any safety-related enforcement, such as sobriety checkpoints, seatbelt enforcement and saturation patrols,” Melanie Stokes, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Motor Vehi-cles, said.
Stokes said an example of saturation patrols is when several officers are sent to an area “known for drunk driving at 2 a.m.”
Maj. Kenneth Fitzgerald, of the Danville Police Department, said programs enforced in Danville include Click It or Ticket and the Over the Limit, Under Arrest Checkpoint Strike Force Campaign.
Fitzgerald said the grant money gives the department funds to pay overtime for special patrols and allows it to purchase equipment such as radar guns.
“It’s an attempt to reduce crashes and increase seatbelt usage,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s really a good thing the state does.”
The Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office will receive $31,455 for the program, and the Danville Police Depart-ment was awarded $21,631.
The Danville Police De-partment also received an award for $22,000 for the Regional Crash Team.
Fitzgerald said the team has been in place for a couple of years and is composed of officers from Danville, Pittsyl-vania County, Martinsville, Henry County and the Virginia State Police who have received special training to investigate vehicle crashes.
“The program pays for training and equipment to reconstruct accident scenes,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said the Danville Police Department applies for the grant money and stores most of the equipment, but all of the regional law enforcement organizations have access to the equipment and trained personnel.
The program provides funds for specialized training and equipment to investigate crashes and determine their cause, Fitzgerald said.
“We try to find the causes and see if proactive or selec-tive enforcement can help in areas where speed or blocked vision is a problem,” he said.
Fitzgerald said in instances where crashes have been caused by overgrown trees or shrubs blocking signs, for instance, “we get with the appropriate departments to remedy that.”
Fatal crashes have been reduced statewide, Fitzgerald said, as a result of these pro-grams.
“Our goal is to reduce them by another 10 percent this year,” Fitzgerald said.
A news release from Kaine’s office said traffic fatalities for 2008 were the lowest since 1966, and a sur-vey showed that seat belt use in the state was 82.27 percent, “the highest rate ever.”
“Though traffic fatalities in Virginia are down over last year, we are still experiencing an unacceptably high number of preventable deaths on our roadways,” Kaine said in the news release. “These programs are proving successful at reducing our highway fatalities and encouraging safe driving habits, and I am happy they will be getting federal sup-port.”
The grants, administered by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles’ Virginia Highway Safety Office, are awarded to local, nonprofit and state organizations that work to reduce the number of traffic deaths and injuries. More than $17 million in federal money was used to fund projects around Virginia.