CHARLESTON, WV – The weather is cooling and fall is fast approaching. The Columbus Day holiday provides a great opportunity for people to leave town for the long weekend – and this means more cars on the roads. That’s why the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Region 3 are teaming up for the inaugural Operation Crash Reduction effort.
As the Columbus Day holiday weekend nears, the GHSP is reminding all drivers of the importance of seat belt use and other safe driving practices. The campaign runs from today; Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 through Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, and its purpose is to save lives and prevent injuries due to traffic crashes throughout the entire region. This campaign will run in conjunction with the West Virginia’s October Click It or Ticket blitz, running from Oct. 11 through Oct. 28. During this time, law enforcement will conduct a high-visibility enforcement campaign, pulling over and ticketing drivers or passengers who are unbuckled.
The Operation Crash Reduction campaign includes each state in NHTSA Region 3: Delaware, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. The specialized campaign will work to enforce seat belt use and other traffic laws to help keep families safe and to remind everyone that seat belts save lives. Not only is it the law in every Region 3 state, but buckling up provides the best defense against injury or death in a crash.
According to NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), from 2013-2017, Region 3 had 859 fatal crashes between Oct. 1 and Oct. 15. This is the highest number of fatal crashes for the first 15 days of any month from 2013-2017. In fact, from 2013 to 2017 in Region 3, October was the most likely month for fatal crashes to occur, with 3,330 total crashes. Of these fatal crashes, nearly 1 in 3 occupants involved were unbelted. During that same time frame in Region 3, more fatal crashes occurred on Columbus Day Weekend (517) than during the long weekends of Thanksgiving or Memorial Day. Columbus Day was the second deadliest holiday of 2017 for Region 3, trailing only Independence Day.
“With the release of preliminary 2017 FARS data, we noticed this troubling trend in Region 3,” said Stephanie Hancock, NHTSA Region 3 Administrator. “We know that speed, distraction, and impairment are the root causes of most of the Region’s crashes. However, seat belt and child safety seat use are your number-one source of protection in crashes caused by a speeding, impaired, or distracted driver.”
“We know that these types of crashes typically occur around national holidays such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Thanksgiving,” added Bob Tipton, GHSP Director. “However, we were surprised to learn that over the past five years, more fatal crashes occurred in our region on Columbus Day weekend than during more highly-traveled holidays like Thanksgiving or Memorial Day weekend. That is why we are working with NHTSA and our local law enforcement agencies to ensure you see plenty of enforcement during the holiday weekend.”
“During Operation Crash Reduction and our extended Click It or Ticket campaign, we’ll be checking for seat belt use across the state, while educating drivers and passengers on the importance of wearing a seat belt,” said Amy Boggs, Occupant Protection Program Manager for the GHSP. “Seat belts save lives, and everyone – front seat and back, child and adult – needs to remember to buckle up.”