Spikes in Road Deaths and Injuries in Virginia Result in New Investment
Soaring road deaths and injuries on the highways of Virginia have resulted in an unprecedented level of investment in road improvements. It remains to be seen if the money spent on infrastructure will reverse the alarming trend.
Virginia recorded 968 highway deaths in 2021 compared to 700 traffic deaths in 2014. Preliminary figures suggest 2022 was also a grim year on the Commonwealth’s highways.
The Virginia Mercury reported on how the Commonwealth Transportation Board voted to appropriate $672.4 million to make the state’s roads safer.
However, the scale of this investment must be set against an apparent rise in reckless driving, speeding, and drunk and drug driving since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. The Strategic Highway Safety Plan is rooted in a Virginia highway death rate that rose 23 percent from 2019 to 2020.
Motor Vehicle Crashes Are a Leading Cause of Death
“Motor vehicle crashes are a serious public health problem that takes substantial resources to respond to and provide treatment or hospitalization. According to data from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), motor vehicle crashes are one of the top four leading causes of death from 2015 to 2019 for Virginians between the ages of 5 and 34,” the strategy states.
The document is driven by the Federal Highway Administration’s Safe System based on six principles; deaths and serious injuries are unacceptable, humans make mistakes, humans are vulnerable, responsibility for road safety is shared, safety is proactive, and redundancy is crucial.
Virginia is seeking to counter driver overconfidence, according to Stephen Brich, commissioner of highways at the Virginia Department of Transportation.
“We’ve seen a significant increase because people felt safer in their vehicles, their speeds drastically have increased and we’re continuing to see speed as being one of those major factors in the crashes that we’re seeing today,” he said last year.
This raises an alarming suggestion that drivers are now more reckless because their cars have more built-in safety systems. Notwithstanding the appearance of systems such as sensors, vehicles leaving their lane emerged as the leading cause of deaths and serious injuries to drivers and passengers from 2017 to 2021.
Safety Improvements in Virginia
The Mercury reported that $672.4 million appropriated by the Commonwealth Transportation Board last year will allow the state to install more flashing yellow lights that warn drivers to yield to oncoming traffic, cyclists, or pedestrians. It will also allow local traffic safety projects in busy areas such as Hampton Roads to be built more quickly.
The plan also includes completing safety improvements on 200 pedestrian crossings and up to 2,000 miles of two-lane rural roads by 2028.
The program includes new bridges and more than $30 million to tackle speeding and impaired driving in Virginia through safety and outreach programs. The agency is also seeking to place automated speed enforcement cameras in work zones.
Reasons for a Spike in Road Deaths
The reasons for the spike in road deaths in Virginia is not immediately apparent. However, it mirrors the trend across the country. While some psychologists have cited mental health issues associated with the pandemic, enforcement agencies are also suffering from an acute manpower shortage which may be a catalyst for speeding, one of the leading causes of deaths and serious injuries in Virginia.
Commonwealth Transportation Board member Laura Sellers remains skeptical about the effectiveness of the measures, according to the Mercury. She said there is a very “low probability that we will change anybody’s behavior” by adding speed cameras, changing speed limits, or telling drivers not to get behind the wheel while drunk or drugged.
Contact Our Firm for More Information
Our Virginia car injury lawyers help the victims of accidents in the Commonwealth in their fight for justice and compensation. We help those who are hurt due to the fault of another driver or the families of those who are tragically killed on the highways of Virginia. Please call us for a free consultation.