Deaths Surge on the Highways of Hampton Roads Ahead of Thanksgiving
Traffic levels are likely to return to pre-pandemic levels in Hampton Roads this Thanksgiving holiday. That may be good news for the economy, but the emergency services are bracing for an upsurge in deaths and injuries at a time when crashes are already surging.
AAA warns accident rates in Hampton Roads and many other parts of Virginia are soaring in 2021. A report on Channel 13 News noted Norfolk is seeing the biggest surge in wrecks but other Hampton Roads cities are not far behind.
AAA notes more people are on the roads than last year. Crashes and deaths are also rising. It’s a national trend that legislators are seeking to address via the infrastructure package. A recent AAA report predicts automobile travel volumes over the Thanksgiving holiday will fall within 3% of pre-pandemic levels, with 48.3 million people getting in their cars over the holiday. That equates to about four million more people on the roads of America than this time last year.
Wrecks, injuries, and deaths have risen in Hampton Roads over the last two years, AAA spokesperson Ryan Adcock told Channel 13.
In 2019, 38 people died in crashes in the seven cities. That figure has reached 59 in 2021 to date. Holidays including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year are associated with increases in fatalities and injuries.
AAA states Norfolk had the most overall crashes to date with 835 so far this year and 10 fatalities. That compares to 758 crashes and seven fatalities in 2019.
In neighboring Portsmouth, the death toll rose from two to seven fatalities from 2019 to 2021. Their number of crashes increased from 185 to 270.
The roads of Chesapeake became considerably more dangerous this year. Chesapeake recorded three traffic fatalities in 2019 with 425 crashes, according to AAA. This year, the figure has reached 11 fatalities and 407 crashes.
Virginia Beach, the largest city in the state, has seen a slight increase in deaths and injuries over the last 24 months. The city went from 12 deaths and 538 crashes two years ago to 15 fatalities and 560 crashes this year to date. Hampton recorded a more dramatic increase from 358 crashes and three deaths in 2019 to 484 crashes and 9 fatalities this year.
Newport News saw a spike in road deaths in 2020 when 11 people died on the highways of the biggest city on the Peninsula. Newport News has seen five deaths in 2021 – the same number as in 2019. Suffolk is the only city in Hampton Roads to record fewer deaths than in 2019 – down from six in 2019 to two in 2021.
It’s challenging to pinpoint the reasons for the rise in road deaths in Hampton Roads. However, AAA cites increased impatience and speeding. “People are definitely less patient and then more apt to speed because they were able to get places faster during the pandemic because there was less traffic and less congestion,” Adcock said.
It’s not worth rushing to get to your destination faster, in particular over the holidays. Drivers need to drive 100 miles to save roughly 5 minutes driving at 80 miles per hour instead of 75, according to AAA.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says speeding drivers cost the country $52 billion each year. Adcock advises drivers to slow down and be patient, especially during the congestion associated with the holidays.
“We’ve been telling people to ‘pack your patience’ while they’re on the road,” he said. “Really just give yourself that time cushion.”
The Department of Motor Vehicles’ Virginia Traffic Crash Facts document highlights some alarming driving trends in the state. Although no official report is yet available for 2021, the DMV has published its statistics for 2020.
While the number of crashes declined dramatically in 2020 from 128,172 to 105,600, road deaths rose. The 847 deaths seen in 2020 are the highest number in six years. The number of alcohol-related deaths rose from 264 to 272, the number of speed-related deaths rose from 349 to 406, and the number of people who died while not wearing a seatbelt rose from 304 to 343.
The report pointed to a positive trend over distracted driving and pedestrian crashes. Distracted driving wrecks fell by 19.1% in 2020 and pedestrian crashes fell by 23.6%.
Our Norfolk-based personal injury lawyers see the terrible consequences of crashes in Hampton Roads and beyond on a daily basis. Lives are wiped out, careers are ended, and people suffer terrible pain and debilitating injuries. We hold driers who are responsible for the misery accountable. We file lawsuits against the insurance companies of drunken, speeding, distracted, and careless drivers. Please see our case results or call us for a free consultation.