July 4 traffic fatalities fall to lowest since 2002

Traffic accidents claimed four lives on state roads over the Fourth of July weekend, the lowest total for the holiday period since 2002, Virginia State Police said.

The total was down sharply from the 11 who died during the 2014 three-day holiday weekend.

State police were called out to the scenes of 692 wrecks and issued 8,942 citations for speeding. They also cited 2,259 drivers for reckless driving, 822 for seat belt violations and 327 for child safety seat violations.

The number of drunk driving arrests made by state police increased by almost 20 percent, from 77 in 2014 to 96 this year.

The fatal accidents were recorded in Carroll, Henrico, Pittsylvania and Washington counties.

Col. W. Steven Flaherty, the state police superintendent, called the increase in drunk driving arrests “an extreme concern.”

“Such an increase means 96 individuals made the irresponsible and potentially deadly decision to drive while under the influence of alcohol,” Flaherty said in a written statement. “Those drivers put countless other motorists at risk for crash, injury or death.”

Sheriff’s offices in the area reported a mostly uneventful weekend for traffic accidents.

Lt. Warren Gosnell of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office reported two accidents, one involving a deer, and no injuries.

“We had a rough start to the year with traffic fatalities and to make it through a weekend like that is a sigh of relief,” Gosnell said.

Capt. Mike Arnold of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office counted three accidents. He was unsure if they involved any injuries. This year’s accident total was one more than the number recorded during the Fourth of July weekend in 2014, Arnold said.

The Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office charged one person with reckless driving on Sunday, and fielded what Capt. Scott Proctor described as “about half a dozen other miscellaneous motorist complaints” ranging from calls for assistance to suspected drunk driving.

“We answered a normal contingent of complaints that we get on a holiday weekend,” Proctor said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com