While it may be tempting to throw caution into the wind as 2020 winds to a close, local and state police are emphasizing the need for people to drive safely during the winter holidays, when alcohol-related crashes often spike.
Data from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Highway Safety Office shows that the Commonwealth has recorded more fatalities from traffic crashes related to speed and drunk driving so far this year than in all of 2019, the Virginia State Police reported on Monday (Dec. 21).
“Virginia is on pace to have more total fatal traffic crashes in 2020 than in 2019,” VSP Superintendent Col. Gary Settle said. “…Overall traffic crashes in Virginia this year are down significantly. This means each crash has been deadlier – deadlier because of speed, alcohol, distractions, and individuals not wearing seatbelts.”
The increase in deaths from crashes comes even as the COVID-19 pandemic kept many people off the roads and confined to their homes.
According to toll operator Transurban, traffic on the Interstate 95, 495, and 395 Express Lanes was down 80% in April – when Virginia had stay-at-home orders in place – compared to that same time period in 2019. While traffic has gradually increased since then, it remained 39% below 2019 levels as of November.
Police say that drunk-driving related fatalities and crashes typically go up nationwide during the holidays.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 839 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes in the U.S. in December 2018. 285 of them died during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period, the VSP says.
The Fairfax County Police Department’s traffic division steps up its patrol for people driving the influence every year with an annual campaign against drunk driving that runs from the end of November to the new year.
“Although this campaign only runs until January 1, we are fortunate enough to have a dedicated DWI Squad to continue enforcement throughout the rest of the year,” the FCPD said in an email, adding that Virginia DMV recorded 336 alcohol-related crashes, 215 injuries, and seven deaths in the state from Nov. 30 to Dec. 15, 2019.
Health officials have been discouraging people from attending parties or gathering with people outside their immediate household, but for anyone who decides to travel during the holiday season, the Virginia State Police has some recommendations:
- Plan ahead. Designate a sober driver, call a friend or family member, or use a cab or public transportation.
- If you know someone has been drinking, do not let them drive. Arrange an alternative, safer way home.
- Call police if you see an impaired driver on the road. Dial #77 to contact the nearest VSP emergency communications center.
State police will also have new grounds to crack down on distracted driving in the new year. It will be illegal to use a phone or other handheld communications device while driving on highways in Virginia starting on Jan. 1.
“Virginia State Police is urging every motorist on the road this holiday season to be responsible, obey the traffic laws, ditch distractions, and wear a seatbelt,” the VSP said in its news release. “Whether heading to the grocery store, the post office, or delivering gifts to family and friends, choose to do it safely and do it responsibly.”
Virginia State Police Issue Alert for Missing Reston Resident — The state’s police department issued an alert for missing Reston resident Michael Delaney, 75, who was last seen leaving Reston Hospital Center on May 10. Local police have suspended an active search for the Reston resident, who suffers from a cognitive impairment. [Virginia State Police]
Good Deed Alert: Stuff the Bus is Today — Fastran buses will be parked at locations throughout the county for donations. The Reston location is at the Hunter Mill District Supervisor’s Office, which is located at 1801 Cameron Glen Drive. Donations from that location will go directly Cornerstones. [Fairfax County Government]
Reston Man Charged with Second DWI — “A man was arrested in Ashburn May 14 after reportedly causing a vehicle collision while impaired, according to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies responded to the 44000 block of Allderwood Terrace around 9:24 a.m. and reportedly found the striking driver to be under the influence of alcohol. Julio F. Aragon, 30, of Reston, was charged with driving while intoxicated — his second offense.” [Loudoun Times-Mirror]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Virginia State Police arrested a Caroline County Man and a juvenile in connection with a carjacking that started in Reston on Wednesday (June 19).
Police believe Jaquan McNeil, 21, of Ruther Glen, and a juvenile suspect, assaulted a man as he was leaving his car on the 11400 block of Isaac Newtown Square at around 5 a.m.
The suspects then stole the BMW X5 and sped down I-95 when state police spotted them, according to police.
An officer spotted the car traveling south near a line marker in Prince William County and called more troopers to help. As police approached, the car swerved suddenly to the right shoulder and sped away from approaching law enforcement.
The pursuit continued for some time until the car crashed into a curve on the exit ramp and struck the guardrail.
McNeil fled the scene on foot, but was arrested a short while later. He was charged with one felony count of eluding police, one count of driving on a suspended license, one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and one count of reckless driving. McNeil is being held at the Stafford County Jail.
The 15-year-old passenger was taken into custody without incident. Both suspects declined medical assistance for injuries that happened during the crash.
Police continue to investigate the incident.
Logo via Virginia State Police
A 30-year-old Reston man was killed last week when he crashed the stolen car he was driving in Rockbridge County, Virginia State Police officials said.
State Police said the crash happened Friday around 5:50 a.m. on Route 850 near Lexington, Va.
Authorities said the 2007 Lexus Rx-350 involved in the crash was stolen from Fairfax County last week.
The driver of the vehicle was identified as Bradley Charles Kilpatrick of Reston. State police say Kilpatrick was not wearing a seatbelt and died at the scene.
The crash remains under investigation.
According to Fairfax County Court records, Kilpatrick had a long list of driving and car theft charges in the last several years. Among them: Grand Larceny Auto Theft (three charges), driving with a suspended license, and fugitive from an arrest warrant.
Photo courtesy of Virginia State Police