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Around 140 sobriety checkpoints set up in Va. during Labor Day weekend

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MIAMI - DECEMBER 15: Officer Kevin Millan from the City of Miami Beach police department conducts a field sobriety test at a DUI traffic checkpoint December 15, 2006 in Miami, Florida. According to police, the woman failed a breathalyzer test by blowing into the device and receiving two readings one at .190 the other .183, which is twice the legal limit in Florida. The city of Miami, with the help of other police departments, will be conducting saturation patrols and setting up checkpoints during the holiday period looking to apprehend drivers for impaired driving and other traffic violations. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

RICHMOND, Va. – Highway deaths during the Labor Day holiday weekend have increased for three consecutive years, and law enforcement plans to be out in full force with checkpoints.

Labor Day traffic fatalities on Virginia’s roadways have steadily increased each year since 2012, according to Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles data.

Close to one-million Virginians are projected to travel this Labor Day holiday weekend, with the majority driving. AAA Mid-Atlantic noted that historic holiday gas prices in the U.S. are prompting more people to travel via vehicle. Gas prices are projected to be the lowest since 2004, with Virginia drivers paying the fifth lowest gas prices in the nation.

That’s why Virginia officials outlined plans ahead of the long weekend, hoping to ensure safety on the Commonwealth’s roadways.

“Sadly, over the Labor Day holiday period, 40-percent of fatal crashes in the U.S. involve alcohol-impaired drivers,” said Brian J. Moran, Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security. “Worse, more than a fourth of these deadly crashes involve drivers with a blood alcohol concentration nearly twice the legal limit.”

Last year, 20,768 people were convicted of DUI in Virginia.

Given the increasing statistics, motorists can count on nearly 200 local law enforcement agencies, along with Virginia State Police, participating in Virginia’s 2016 Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign.

Virginia law enforcement members will be conducting approximately 140 sobriety checkpoints and 530 saturation patrols through Sept. 5 and the Labor Day holiday period, alone.

Similar local and statewide law enforcement efforts will also continue through December 31, 2016.

Started in 2002, Virginia’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign is part of a research-based multi-state, zero-tolerance initiative designed to get impaired drivers off the roads using checkpoints and patrols along with education about the dangers and consequences of driving while intoxicated.

While aiming to reach all potential drunk drivers, the statewide enforcement and education campaign specifically focuses on males aged 21 to 35, a demographic representing nearly a third of all persons killed in Virginia’s alcohol-related traffic crashes last year.

“In as much, all drivers in or through the Commonwealth should be reminded that the penalties for even a first-time DUI conviction in Virginia are great and include mandatory ignition interlock installation on the offender’s vehicle as well as fines up to $ 2,500, suspension periods up to one year and jail sentences also up to one year,” said Lt. Colonel George L. Daniels, Jr., Director of the Virginia State Police Bureau of Field Operations.

Highway vigilance will also accompany a significant multimedia campaign featuring approximately 35,000 campaign ads running on nearly 70 television, cable and radio stations in Virginia as well as both movie theater and digital advertising in the Commonwealth.

Virginia’s 30-second Checkpoint Strikeforce television spot, which celebrates the “beauty” of designated sober drivers, can be viewed online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZ2Xpa6R43U. The TV spots, introduced last year, proactively communicate that “nothing’s more beautiful than a safe ride home” whether it’s in a cab, public transportation, with a sober friend or through a transportation network company such as Uber or Lyft.

Nearly two-thirds, or 65% of 1,000 male drivers ages 21-35 surveyed in Virginia and Maryland between July 28 and August 9 this year admitted to either driving after having a few drinks or being driven by someone who had a few drinks even though these same respondents consider drunk drivers a “serious danger.”

The survey additionally found that while designating a driver was the top answer as to how 21-35 year olds “plan a safe ride home,” less than two-thirds (59%) frequently plan ahead for said safe ride home.