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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Expect safety checks this holiday weekend

Sunday, September 1, 2013

By SAM JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

Area police will be taking extra steps to maintain traffic safety this holiday weekend, and interim Martinsville Police Chief Eddie Cassady said that is for the benefit of all drivers.

Noting the number of people who will travel this Labor Day weekend, Cassady suggested caution when on the road. “Everybody’s coming back Sunday and Monday, (and) there can be a lot of accidents,” he said. “Try to pay attention.”

To keep the roads safe, Cassady said, “we will have some extra patrol out this weekend. I want to check some hot spots and keep things calmed down.”

The police department has received a Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) grant for what Cassady calls “special enforcement” for occupant safety.

Such grants help fund overtime for officers to work extra hours at high-traffic times such as Labor Day, he said. The city applies for the grants every year, he said.

Cassady said Friday that he planned to schedule officers for extra duty to prevent speeding, driving under the influence and driving without wearing seat belts.

“The whole reason for it is to reduce the number of injuries in accidents,” he said.

Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry said his office planned to set up a checkpoint in at least one location during the weekend to reduce potential dangers.

“Anytime we do a checkpoint, it’s (to look for) a multitude of things,” he said. Deputies will check drivers licenses and state inspection stickers, and they will make sure drivers and children in car seats are properly restrained.

“Occasionally, we get a DUI, someone driving suspended” or a fugitive sought on outstanding charges, he said.

Just because there is extra enforcement over a holiday, however, doesn’t mean the need for vigilance will end Tuesday morning.

“Safe driving needs to take place any time,” Perry said. However, the risk for problems increases “the more traffic you have,” he said.

According to DMV data, there were six traffic accidents in Henry County between Aug. 31 and Sept. 3, 2012, which was the Labor Day weekend. Three of those were classified as “speed-related,” and all of them included injuries.

There was one crash in the county in that period last year that was classified as alcohol-related and which included injuries, the DMV reported.

Martinsville had only one crash last year in the period. It did not include injuries and was not alcohol or speed-related, according to DMV data.

Cassady said the city often uses DMV data to determine when to add manpower for traffic enforcement.

“It gives us an opportunity to look at the data a little clearer,” he said. “(There are) certain times of the year you have more accidents,” such as Labor Day and Christmas.

Although safety issues such as drunken driving are emphasized as part of the state DMV’s “Checkpoint Strikeforce” campaign, Perry said driving dangers can be caused by more simple things, such as traffic and fatigue from driving.

“You can see (when) people get frustrated being stuck in traffic,” he said. Sometimes, that means they hurry to compensate, or they let their attentiveness falter.

Fatigue, he said, also is an underrated cause of accidents.

“When someone gets sleepy, we equate it just as dangerous as drunk driving, probably more so.” he said. “When the body wants to go to sleep, it just shuts down.”

In 2012, Virginia recorded 1,194 crashes and six fatalities over the Labor Day holiday weekend, according to a news release from the state DMV.


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