Sep 15, 2022 - News

Virginia traffic deaths continue to rise

Illustration of a stop sign with a memorial wreath.
Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Nearly 300 people in Virginia died in vehicle-related traffic crashes in the first quarter of 2022, a roughly 72% increase from the same period in 2021, according to preliminary estimates by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

  • The nationwide increase for the same period was 7%, reaching an estimated 9,560 deaths — the highest number of first-quarter fatalities in 20 years, NHTSA said in its report.

​​Why it matters: The new data suggests U.S. roads are becoming increasingly deadly and that the country is on pace to have yet another annual increase in traffic fatalities.

  • Virginia had the third-highest increase in the nation in the early NHTSA estimates, released last month.

What's happening: Traffic fatalities began increasing nationwide during the pandemic even though fewer people were driving and overall traffic accidents dropped, Axios' Joann Muller reported.

  • The people who were on the road tended to be disproportionately male and younger (39 and under) and also engaged in risky driving behavior, an AAA study found.
  • Half of the people who increased their driving during the pandemic said they were speeding on residential roads and texting, while nearly half reported running red lights and changing lanes aggressively.
  • They were also more likely to not be wearing a seat belt or to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Zoom in: Last year, 968 people died in Virginia in car crashes, with speed listed as the cause for nearly half of them, according to the Virginia Highway Safety Office's annual report.

  • Not wearing a seatbelt was the second-leading factor in fatal car crashes, followed by alcohol.
  • The breakdown of causes was similar for 2020, when 847 people died on Virginia roads.

Thus far in 2022, 652 people have been killed in car accidents in Virginia, according to the Traffic Records Electronic Database System.

Roughly 80% of crashes happen on non-interstate roads. These were the most high-crash spots in Richmond, according to data from the Virginia Highway Safety Office:

  • Belvidere Street from Main to Leigh (near VCU and the interstate interchange) accounted for 46 crashes last year and 47 thus far this year.
  • Commerce and Hull streets in Manchester saw 35 crashes last year and 14 so far this year.
  • Laburnum and Hermitage on Northside (where the AP Hill monument sits) recorded 22 crashes last year and 18 so far this year.

Virginia's Highway Safety Office has launched a series of safety campaigns in an attempt to keep the roads safer, the most recent of which is a YouTube series launched in August called "Safe Driving Is Something We Can All Live With."

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