Virginia Road Deaths Reach a 14-Year High
The sight of mangled cars and emergency vehicles on Virginia’s highways seems to be becoming a more common one. The notion that our highways are increasingly dangerous is supported by figures that show Virginia road deaths reached a 14-year high last year.
Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) again warned drivers to slow down as the department revealed 968 Virginians died in highway crashes in 2021, a 14.3 percent increase over 2020.
Virginia is mirroring a national trend as excess speed and distracted driving push up highway deaths, according to DMV. Deaths in the Commonwealth increased across a number of categories including speed-related deaths, fatalities of motorcyclists, commercial vehicle-involved fatalities and pedestrians, bicyclists, teen drivers, and older motorists.
The highway death toll in 2021 was the highest in Virginia since 2007 when 1,026 people lost their lives on the highway. The figures for 2022 to date indicate the upward death toll is continuing. More than 245 Virginians have been killed in crashes so far this year—a 12 percent increase compared to this point in 2021.
Acting DMV Commissioner Linda Ford urged an urgent change in driver behavior.
“This is critically important as fatalities continue to increase this year. Vehicles and roadways are safer than they ever have been, yet we continue to lose lives to senseless crashes. Do your part to help. Slow down, buckle up, focus on the task of driving and never drive impaired,” she said.
Virginia’s rise in deadly car crashes in 2021 is in line with a national trend. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 31,720 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the first nine months of 2021, a rise of about 12 percent on the deaths in 2020.
The agency released a roadmap intended to tackle the causes of road crashes. However, the fatal accident rate keeps ticking up.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg branded highway fatalities a “national crisis.”
“We cannot and must not accept these deaths as an inevitable part of everyday life,” he said. He called for a culture change and a refusal to accept traffic deaths as inevitable.
Highway authorities must tackle rises in deaths caused by speed, drunk driving, and a fall in the number of drivers and passengers wearing seat belts in Virginia.
DMV’s Crash Facts report for 2020 – the most recent year detailed figures are available – found the number of alcohol-related fatalities rose from 264 in 2019 to 272 in 2020. The number of crashes caused by drunk drivers along with injuries in intoxication crashes fell in 2020.
Speed-related deaths in Virginia rose dramatically from 349 in 2019 to 406 in 2020. The report notes 343 deaths involved drivers and passengers who failed to wear seat belts – up from 304 in 2019.
Virginia Beach recorded the highest number of road deaths in Hampton Roads in 2020 – 26. Drunk driving was a factor in half of them. Norfolk recorded 25 traffic deaths in 2020. Distracted driving deaths in Virginia rose slightly in 2020 – by 0.8 percent to 121.
One positive takeaway from the 2020 figures was an 8.1 percent fall in pedestrian deaths in Virginia. However, the pandemic kept more people in their homes in the spring of 2020.
The fall in pedestrian deaths represented a rare piece of good news in a grim overall picture. As Virginia car accident lawyers, we help many families of people who have needlessly lost their lives on the highways. We help hundreds of injured people every year. If you suffer an injury or lose a love one, another driver may be to blame. Please contact our Norfolk-based injury team about possible compensation at 757-333-3333.