Air, Land & Speed on I-64 & I-66 Focuses on “Back to School”

With hundreds of new and returning college students taking to Virginia’s highways this weekend, Virginia State Police will be increasing patrols along Interstate 64 and Interstate 66 to ensure traffic moves safely. The two-day initiative is part of state police’s continuing traffic-safety program called Operation Air, Land and Speed.

“This weekend was specifically selected for an enforcement operation because of the significant increase in traffic associated with students heading off to college in and out of state,” said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Hopefully parents will have one less thing to worry about knowing more state police will be patrolling Virginia’s interstates looking for dangerous and reckless drivers.”

On Saturday, Aug. 21, through Sunday night, Aug. 22, 2010, state police troopers, supervisors, motorcycle units and motor carrier teams will saturate the entire lengths of Interstate 64 and 66 as part of Operation Air, Land & Speed. State police operational duties on other interstates, primary and secondary roads will not be affected during the operation.

College-age students are encouraged to make driving safety a priority this weekend and throughout the school year. From Jan. 1, 2010, through Aug. 15, 2010, preliminary reports show 46 young men and women between the ages of 18 and 20 have lost their lives to a traffic crash in Virginia.* Traffic deaths for 18-year-olds in Virginia are up 78 percent in 2010 compared to the same time in 2009.*

Drivers and passengers are reminded to always use a seat belt when traveling in a vehicle. Drivers, especially those between the ages of 18 and 20, are advised to avoid distractions while behind the wheel, comply with speed limits, and to drive drug and alcohol free. Virginia law does prohibit drivers from texting while their vehicle is in motion.

With the increased presence of troopers on the interstates, motorists are also advised of Virginia’s “Move Over” law. Since 2002, state law has required drivers to move over a travel lane or, when unable to safely do so, to proceed with caution when passing an emergency vehicle stopped on the side of the road. As of July 1, 2010, the law was expanded to include towing, repair and highway maintenance vehicles displaying amber-colored flashing lights.

This will be state police’s fifth Operation Air, Land & Speed campaign conducted on Virginia interstates in 2010. The last time I-64 and I-66 were selected for the traffic-safety project was in December 2009. During that one-day campaign, state police cited 973 speeders, 226 reckless drivers and 105 seat belt violations. Three drunk drivers were arrested and 11 other drug/felony arrests were made.

Funding for the enforcement initiative is provided through federal highway safety monies. Funds generated from summonses issued by state police go directly to court fees and the state’s Literary Fund, which benefits public school construction, technology funding and teacher retirement.