(WFXR) — With Memorial Day weekend being one of the busiest — and most dangerous — travel weekends of the year, Virginia’s transportation officials and law enforcement officers are working together to make sure motorists reach their holiday destinations safely.

“During the pandemic, traffic volumes and congestion levels decreased,” the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) said. “As we see traffic volumes rebound to pre-pandemic levels, it is anticipated that the Memorial Day traffic will also return to those levels.”

VDOT’s interactive travel-trends map shows peak congestion periods on Virginia interstates during the pre-pandemic 2018 and 2019 Memorial Day holiday periods. While the map cannot precisely predict when congestion will occur this year, officials say it can still help motorists avoid travel when roads have historically been busiest.

Based on the traffic data, the periods of moderate to heavy congestion on the most recent pre-pandemic Memorial Day weekends were most likely to occur between noon and 6 p.m. on Friday and Monday, as well as mid-day on Saturday and Sunday, according to the department.

In order to ease the stress of holiday travel, VDOT says it is suspending most highway work zones and lifting most lane closures on interstates and other major roads around the Commonwealth from noon on Friday, May 27 until noon on Tuesday, May 31.

Even though lane closures will be lifted in most locations, VDOT warns that motorists may still run into the remaining semi-permanent work zones, as well as travel delays. You can find a full listing of those lane closures on VDOT’s website, but the closures in southwest and central Virginia, as well as major traffic information in other parts of the Commonwealth, are listed below:

  • Alleghany Highlands:
    • Craig County:
      • Route 311: Bridge replacement over Meadow Creek, so traffic will be reduced to one lane with a temporary signal to control traffic, a width restriction of nine feet, speed reduced to 35 mph, and a signed detour in place on Allen Street
  • Hampton Roads:
    • I-64/I-264/I-564 HOV Diamond Lanes and 64 Express Lanes:
      • HOV restrictions and express lanes tolls will be lifted on Monday, May 30
      • The 64 Express Lanes in Norfolk may be used at no cost to motorists outside of normal operating hours
    • I-64 Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT): 
      • Local traffic to Virginia Beach is encouraged to use the I-664 Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel (MMMBT) as an alternative to the HRBT
      • If traveling to Virginia Beach, take I-664 South to the MMMBT, then take the Portsmouth/Norfolk exit (exit 15A) to I-264 East to Virginia Beach
    • Travel to Outer Banks:
      • Local traffic to the North Carolina Outer Banks should use I-664 and the MMMBT to save time
      • From I-664 South, take I-64 West to exit 292, Chesapeake Expressway/I-464/Route 17; keep left to continue to the Chesapeake Expressway (Route 168); and take Nags Head/Great Bridge (exit 291B) to the Outer Banks
  • Lynchburg and central Virginia:
    • Bedford County
      • Route 460: Realignment of eastbound lanes near Montvale, so a traffic shift will be in place with eastbound and westbound lanes reduced to one lane, the speed limit reduced to 45 mph, and Wilkerson Mill Road access closed at Route 460 with a detour in place
  • New River Valley:
    • Bland County:
      • I-77: Improvements at on- and off-ramps at exit 64, as well as repairs to bridges over Route 61 and Clear Fork Creek
    • Carroll County:
      • Route 58W: Bridge replacement over Crooked Creek between Route 822 and Route 887, so traffic will be reduced to one lane in both directions at Glendale Drive
    • Pulaski County/Montgomery County:
      • I-81: Crews are replacing the northbound bridge over the New River at the border of Pulaski County and Montgomery County, so northbound traffic is switched to new bridge; lane, ramp, and shoulder closures are in place between mile markers 103 and 105; the speed limit is reduced to 60 mph; and the width restriction is 11 feet
    • Wythe County
      • I-77: Replacement of Cove Creek Bridges between mile markers 44 and 42, so expect an altered traffic pattern on I-77 northbound and southbound
  • Northern Virginia:
    • All high occupancy vehicle (HOV) restrictions on I-66 and rush-hour tolls on the 66 Express Lanes Inside the Beltway will be lifted on Monday, May 30
    • Find directional schedules for the reversible 95 and 395 express lanes, and information for the 495 Express Lanes at www.expresslanes.com
  • Roanoke Valley:
    • Botetourt County:
      • I-81 rest area closure: The Troutville rest area at mile marker 158 on I-81 South will be closed — including the rest area facility, ramps and parking lot — to the public from late May (after Memorial Day) until early September (before Labor Day)
    • Roanoke City:
      • 13th Street: Due to safety improvements, southbound traffic will be detoured using Norfolk Avenue onto 12th Street to Tazewell Avenue, with flaggers possible and a speed limit of 25 mph
    • Roanoke County:
      • I-81: Road widening between exits 137 and 141 in both directions while a barrier wall is being installed, so there will be nighttime lane closures, daytime shoulder closures, and a width restriction of 11 feet.
  • Southside Virginia:
    • Henry County:
      • Route 220: Safety improvements southbound from the Virginia/North Carolina state line to Route 688, with a left lane closure in place

You can find information about construction, congestion, crashes, and other traffic incidents, as well as access traffic cameras, weather, and more by using the free mobile 511 app, visiting 511Virginia.org, or calling 511 from any phone.

If you want to report a road problem or get answers to transportation questions, call VDOT’s Customer Service Center around the clock at 800-FOR-ROAD (800-367-7623).

While VDOT encourages travelers to plan ahead for the holiday weekend, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and law enforcement agencies across the Commonwealth want motorists to focus on safe driving habits.

In an effort to save lives through increased seat belt use, the DMV has joined with Virginia State Police and local authorities to participate in the national ‘Click It or Ticket’ campaign — an initiative held annually before and during the Memorial Day holiday — through June 5.

In fact, the DMV partnered with the Chesterfield County Police Department, the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), and the American Automobile Association’s (AAA) Mid-Atlantic division on Thursday, May 26 to kick off the ‘Click It or Ticket’ campaign.

According to a joint statement from the DMV and AAA, based on the most recent statewide seat belt survey conducted in 2021, Virginia’s seat belt use rate is 81.7%, which is lower than national average of 89.7%.

In addition, officials tell WFXR News there were 5,583 crashes involving unrestrained people; 3,854 unrestrained injuries; and 334 deaths involving unrestrained people in the Commonwealth last year.

“These facts gravely highlight the need for increased awareness of seat belt use,” said Acting DMV Commissioner Linda Ford, the governor’s highway safety representative. “DMV and our safety partners continue to publicize messages about the importance of seat belt use throughout the year, but especially during our annual Click It or Ticket campaign.”

Police officers, deputies, and state troopers are set to support the DMV’s seat belt awareness messaging by conducting saturation patrols and high-visibility enforcement along busy roads and highways — especially along the Route 60 corridor — in order to protect motorists.

“Time after time, we see the deadly results that come from drivers and passengers refusing to wear a seat belt,” said DMV Highway Safety Office Director John Saunders. “Buckling up is one of the most important steps in increasing survivability in a crash. Each one of those 334 people who died last year in unbelted crashes was someone’s mother, someone’s father, a sister or someone’s best friend, and preventing those needless tragedies from continuing to occur is our top priority.”

Last year, the DMV says approximately 48% of vehicle deaths in the Commonwealth involved occupants who were not wearing safety restraints. Not only did those ages 21 to 35 account for 32% of the unrestrained fatalities, but 51% of unrestrained fatalities occurred between 6 p.m. and 3 a.m.

“These numbers tell us that half of our Commonwealth’s fatalities last year involved people not wearing seat belts and dying on our roadways,” said Capt. John Miller from Chesterfield County Police Department. “We want to do everything we can to reach unrestrained people and save their lives. Click It or Ticket works to change the behavior of those who are not buckled up, and to keep them from repeating this potentially deadly mistake.”

In addition to the ‘Click it or Ticket’ campaign, Virginia State Police will be taking part in Operation Crash Awareness Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E), a state-sponsored, national program meant to reduce crashes, deaths, and injuries due to impaired driving, speeding, and failing to wear a seat belt.

From 12:01 a.m. on Friday through midnight on Monday, officials say all available state police troopers and supervisors will be on patrol through the holiday weekend to help keep traffic moving safely and responsibly for Operation C.A.R.E.

“Virginians need to make traffic safety a priority every day, and with a large number of travelers expected on the road this Memorial Day weekend, as traffic increases so should their vigilance and patience,” said Col. Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police superintendent. “Memorial Day weekend is filled with celebrations, vacations, outdoor festivals and backyard cookouts, which is why we need all drivers to comply with posted speed limits, be patient and alert, buckle up, and never drive buzzed or drunk.”

According to police, 15 people lost their lives in traffic crashes on Virginia roadways during the 2021 Memorial Day Operation C.A.R.E. initiative.

Furthermore, through last year’s combined Memorial Day C.A.R.E. initiative and the ‘Click It or Ticket’ campaign — which ran from 12:01 a.m. on May 24, 2021 through midnight on May 31, 2021 — Virginia State Police say they cited 5,553 speeders and 1,818 reckless drivers; cited 740 people for seat belt violations; arrested 79 impaired drivers; made 281 felony arrests; and assisted 2,302 disabled motorists.

Despite record-setting gas prices, AAA Mid-Atlantic predicts nearly one million Virginians will be hitting the road for Memorial Day weekend. That’s up nearly 5% from last year’s holiday weekend, which means there will be over 40,000 more travelers are expected to be on the road for the holiday this year, officials say.

“Buckling up is among the most important things you can do to protect yourself and others in a vehicle,” said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesperson Morgan Dean. “Modern cars are loaded with safety features that weren’t available just a few years ago. Those systems work in conjunction with a seat belt. That’s why it’s so important to buckle up, everyone, every time.”

With hundreds of thousands of motorists expected to travel along the Commonwealth’s roads for Memorial Day weekend, VDOT encourages you to drive responsibly and do your part to make the holiday trip safer for everyone else:

  • If you plan to drink, have a designated driver.
  • Buckle up and make sure all kids and car seats are secured.
  • Maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you.
  • Use your signals for lane changes and turns.
  • Don’t leave children, elderly persons or pets in parked vehicles for any amount of time because vehicles can heat up at a dangerously fast rate on hot days.
  • Don’t drive distracted and don’t be afraid to speak up if someone else is doing so.

With the increased patrols, Virginia State Police also issued a reminder to drivers about Virginia’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road, as well as workers in vehicles equipped with amber lights. If you are not able to move over, you are required to cautiously pass the emergency vehicle.