Police targeting drunk drivers

Henrico County Police officials are planning heavy enforcement efforts during the coming Fourth of July weekend, with a particular focus on drunk drivers.

The weekend typically is one of the deadliest holidays nationwide for alcohol-impaired traffic fatalities.

Earlier today, a 37-year-old woman died in a crash in Eastern Henrico that police determined was alcohol- and speed-related. The car's driver, Charles L. Smith of the 200 block of Taylor Road in Sandston, was charged with driving under the influence (his third such offense) and driving while his license was revoked. The crash occurred shortly after 2 a.m. on Meadow Road, when Smith was driving east, drove off the left side of the road,struck a utility pole and drove through a wooden fence.

The vehicle overturned multiple times and came to rest on the passenger side in the woods. Both Smith and the passenger, Tara Lee Mason, were transported to VCU Medical Center. Mason was pronounced dead at 5 a.m. Smith was treated for non-life threatening injuries.

In an effort to prevent similar outcomes this weekend, Henrico officers will be taking part in the "Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest" enforcement.

Statistics gathered from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over the past 25 years show that, on average, nearly half of all deadly traffic crashes over each year's July 4 holiday involved some level of alcohol.

In fact, 410 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes nationally during the Fourth of July weekend in 2009. Of that number, 40 percent involved drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 grams per deciliter or higher.

"The Fourth of July is a time most Americans spend celebrating with family and friends, but it is also one of the year's deadliest times on our roadways. So we will be out in force cracking down on drunk driving. If you are caught driving impaired, you will be arrested," said Sergeant K.R. Burnett.

All 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have made it illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher.

"We want people to be careful all weekend, but particularly at night," said Burnett. "The rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2009 was four times higher at night than during the day."

Impaired driving is one of America's deadliest problems. In 2009 alone, 10,839 people were killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes, accounting for nearly 32 percent of all traffic-related fatalities in the United States. That's an average of one impaired-driving fatality every 48 minutes in 2009.

Burnett said that impaired drivers not only take the risk of hurting or killing themselves or someone else but also risk the trauma and financial costs that an alcohol-impaired-driving crash or an arrest can create. Violators often face jail time, the loss of their driver licenses, higher insurance rates and dozens of other unanticipated expenses.

"Alcohol impairs many of the skills that safe driving requires. So we will be showing zero tolerance, and anyone caught driving with a BAC of .08 or higher will be arrested," Burnett said. "It's simply not worth the risk to you or to the thousands of innocent victims who are hurt or killed each year by drunk drivers. So if you are over the limit, you will be arrested."

For details, visit http://www.StopImpairedDriving.com.
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Fifty-eight FIRST Robotics Competition teams from Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia will face off at the FIRST Chesapeake District Championship Apr. 7-8 at the VCU Siegel Center. This is the culmination of seven district qualifying competitions where over 125 teams competed. Winners will advance to the FIRST World Championship in St. Louis, Mo. Admission is free and open to the public. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days. Full text

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