Safety tips and travel data were presented during a pre-Memorial Day media event held at the Pocahontas 895 offices last week.
Pocahontas 895 offered its facilities for the news conference through its partnership with the Virginia Highway Safety Challenge, a partnership of organizations that promotes safe driving. The goal of the campaign is reduce highway deaths by 100 per year by 2010 by promoting five key messages to the public:
- Buckle up
- Avoid distractions
- Share the road
- Drive drug- and alcohol-free
- Obey speed limits
Local reporters from two TV stations, a radio station and the daily newspaper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, were present at the news conference. NBC12 sent a live truck that remained at Pocahontas 895 throughout the afternoon so that reporter Sunni Blevins could report live at 4, 5 and 6 p.m., with the parkway visible in the background.
Other media outlets, including the Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Norfolk, reported on the event and the Safety Challenge using news releases distributed after the news conference.
“The Virginia Highway Safety Challenge is an important partnership for Pocahontas 895,” said Andi Kuhn, Pocahontas 895’s director. “We go the extra mile when it comes to safety on Pocahontas 895, and we’re proud to help spread the message about safe driving.
“As part of this partnership, we want to reach out to drivers to make them realize that highway fatalities are one of the leading causes of death for Virginians, especially those under the age of 30,” Kuhn said. “By reinforcing these key messages posted on our toll booths and through use of variable message signs, we hope to play a part in raising awareness of safe driving habits.”
Five agencies, all partners in the Safety Challenge, came together for the joint news conference instead of releasing their information separately, as had been done in the past.
VIP speakers included:
- Commissioner David S. Ekern, P.E., Virginia Department of Transportation, who outlined the five call-to-action messages of the Safety Challenge. “It’s a public health issue that has a prescription,” he said. “The prescription is simple: buckle up, avoid distractions, share the road, drive drug- and alcohol-free, and obey speed limits. These are five simple prescriptions to avoid injuries and fatalities.”
- Commissioner D.B. Smit, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and Gov. Timothy Kaine’s highway safety representative, who spoke about past holiday weekend fatalities and the role of the DMV’s Highway Safety Office. He urged holiday weekend travelers to “help save lives by obeying speed limits and making certain everyone in your car is buckled up at all times.
- Capt. Steve Chumley of Virginia State Police, who outlined holiday travel enforcement efforts. He urged travelers to slow down to save gas, money and lives, “not just this holiday weekend, but all summer long.”
- Martha Meade, AAA Mid-Atlantic, manager of public and government affairs, who delivered a holiday weekend travel forecast. She said AAA projected a 3 percent drop in the number of Virginians traveling over Memorial Day weekend, due to “soaring gas prices and a slowing economy.” Still, Meade said nearly 11 percent of Virginians were expected to celebrate the holiday weekend away from home.
Meade, who opened the news conference, acknowledged Pocahontas 895’s role as a Safety Challenge partner and offered thanks for use of the Pocahontas 895 facility for the event. Pocahontas 895 provided cookies and sodas as refreshments afterward.
The news conference also featured the Virginia Department of Health’s child safety van, which is used around the state at events featuring certified technicians who inspect child safety seats and teach parents how to install and use them correctly.
A news release from the health department, distributed at the Pocahontas 895 event, urged parents to support “changes in the law requiring children to be properly secured in a child safety seat or booster when traveling during the summer.”
Virginia’s child-seat law was recently changed to require children through the age of 7 to be secured in a safety seat. Previously, the law allowed children 4 and older to switch from safety seats to lap and shoulder harnesses.
Motorcycle officers representing Virginia State Police and the Chesterfield and Henrico county police departments were on hand as well. Pocahontas 895, which includes a James River bridge crossing, is located in both counties.
The Virginia highway Safety Challenge was launched in October 2007 as a partnership between VDOT, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the Virginia State Police, and AAA Mid-Atlantic.
In addition to Transurban Pocahontas 895, other partners that have joined the coalition include the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, the Virginia Department of Education, the Virginia Department of Health, Drive Smart Virginia, the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance, and MACTEC Engineering & Consulting Inc. Transurban’s northern Virginia office is also a partner in the Safety Challenge.
To learn more about the Virginia Highway Safety Challenge, click here.
Click on the links below to read the news releases distributed at the news conference.
AAA Mid-Atlantic: Fewer Virginians will travel this Memorial Day
State Police: Slow down to save gas, money and lives
Department of Health: Make sure children are seated safely