At least four Washington area residents died in traffic accidents over the holiday weekend as traffic fatalities in Virginia and around the nation soared above levels recorded during Christmas last year.
In Maryland, however, police officials said tough drunk-driving measures, including sobriety check points, were responsible for keeping the death toll on the state's highways lower than in 1983.
In Virginia, 20 persons died in traffic accidents during the official holiday weekend, which began at 6 p.m. last Friday, according to Sgt. James Pennington of the Virginia State Police. This was double the number killed on state roads a year ago.
Pennington said the dramatic surge in fatalities was partly because this year's holiday weekend, which ended at midnight, was one day longer than last year's.
He added, however, that "the big reason for the increase is accidents with multiple deaths," including a two-car collision Sunday in Virginia's rural Southampton County that killed five persons.
Police in the metropolitan jurisdictions were unsure how many of the weekend fatalities were related to alcohol.
Three more persons died in another accident Christmas Eve in Carroll County, Va., Pennington said, in addition to accidents in Halifax and Accomack counties Friday and Saturday night that each claimed two lives.
Nationally, at least 471 persons died in traffic accidents over the holiday weekend, eclipsing by more than 200 last year's three-day total of 238, according to a United Press International tally as of midnight last night.
The most traffic-related deaths were reported in California, where 47 people died, followed by Florida with 42, Texas with 38, Ohio with 26, Georgia with 22, and Wisconsin, Virginia and Illinois with 20 each, UPI reported.
State police in Maryland logged only four traffic deaths over the holiday, compared with 11 last year, a spokesman said. He attributed the drop in fatalities to better weather this year, as well as the state's aggressive campaign to educate people about the dangers of drunk driving. State police in Forestville and College Park said they arrested 30 persons over the holidays for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Locally, two men from Alexandria, a 72-year-old Silver Spring man and an unidentified man whom police believe to be homeless were killed in accidents over the holiday, officials reported.
In the first of the accidents, James E. Vaughn, 42, of 2603 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria, died about 12:45 a.m. Saturday, two hours after the car he was driving collided with a Metrobus near Braddock and Roberts roads in Fairfax County, Virginia state police said. They said no one on the bus was injured.
On Sunday, James E. Tappin, 72, of 14227 Grande Pre Rd., Silver Spring, was struck by a car about 6:30 p.m. while trying to cross the 14100 block of Connecticut Avenue, Montgomery County police said. They said he was taken by ambulance to Montgomery County General Hospital, where he died a short time later of multiple internal injuries.
On Monday, an unidentified man described by police as a "street person" was fatally injured when he was struck by a car about 7:30 p.m. near First and Peabody streets NE, District police reported. They said the man was taken to the Washington Hospital Center shock-trauma unit, where he died about two hours later.
Police said Joe Wilcox, 49, of 3601 Cousins Dr., Landover, was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in the incident. It was the only traffic fatality in the District over the holiday weekend, equaling the number last year, police said.
Also on Monday, Edwin Lesko, 20, of 4206 Shannon Rd., Alexandria, was fatally injured about 1 p.m. when the car he was driving collided with another vehicle in Prince William County. He was taken to Potomac Hospital in Woodbridge, where he died about 90 minutes later, police said.