Virginia Highways Are Becoming More Deadly – Why?

A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveals a substantial increase in traffic fatalities here in Virginia, compared to the same period in 2021. The entire nation is experiencing these troubling statistics – an upward trend in motor vehicle accident deaths that began during the pandemic and continues through 2022.

Virginia Highways Are Becoming More Deadly – Why?

Axios Richmond published an article gathering a variety of data sources showing that “the country is on pace to have yet another annual increase in traffic fatalities.” An August 2022 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows a 7% increase in fatal traffic accidents across the country in the first quarter of 2022, as compared to the same period in 2021.

Navigate this page:

Traffic fatalities nationwide increased during the pandemic

These statistics continue the trend of increased motor vehicle deaths that began during the 2020 pandemic. While other countries enjoyed a decline in traffic fatalities during the COVID pandemic, the United States saw a rise, even with fewer Americans on the roads.

The NHTSA broke down the country into 10 regions to compare traffic fatalities and make projections for 2022. Every single region has an increase, though some individual states saw decreases. Region 3 – which includes Kentucky, North Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, Washington DC, West Virginia, and Virginia – had an estimated 19% increase in fatal accidents between 2021 and 2022; Virginia’s estimated increase was 32.9% overall.

Why did traffic fatalities increase?

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety wanted to find out why, and their research discovered that while most Americans reduced their driving time during the pandemic, a small number actually increased their time on the road – and those people took a lot of risks.

Per AAA, “The Foundation’s new research finds while only a small percentage of drivers (4%) increased their driving due to the pandemic, they were younger and disproportionately malea statistically riskier driver group than the average population.”

According to a survey, these drivers engaged in the following risky driving behaviors:

  • Speeding more than 10mph on a residential street
  • Reading a text message
  • Intentionally running red lights
  • Aggressive lane changes
  • Failure to wear a seatbelt
  • Drinking and driving
  • Cannabis use and driving

“Despite safer roads, safer vehicles and stronger traffic safety laws on the books, the U.S. has witnessed more, not less death on our roadways even at a time when other nations saw dramatic drops,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s director of traffic safety advocacy and research. “What is absolutely clear to AAA is that it will take new action to get us closer to zero traffic deaths.”

What’s causing fatal car accidents in Virginia?

Closer to home, Axios also reports 968 people died in Virginia in car accidents in 2021. And, as mentioned earlier, they also report “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.” What’s causing these accidents? Are they preventable?

According to Virginia Highway Safety Office's annual report, speeding was the cause of over half of car accident fatalities in 2021, as well as 23,948 crashes and 12,937 injuries. Speeding is not only a risky driving behavior, it is against the law and often leads to deadly results. The second-leading cause of fatalities in accidents was failure to wear a seatbelt (334 deaths) and drunk driving (247 deaths).

Where do the most car accidents happen in Richmond?

Getting even more local, the Virginia Highway Safety Office reports the most dangerous spots in Richmond for car accidents:

  • “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.”

In response, Virginia Highway Safety Office launched a safety campaign called “Safe Driving is Something We Can All Live With.” The campaign is a series of YouTube videos, described by 8 News as a series comparing “driving unsafely to other absurd behaviors such as jumping out of an airplane without buckling your parachute and texting in the ring during an MMA fight.”

Linda Ford, Acting DMV Commissioner and the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative, said, “We wanted these videos to be funny to get people’s attention, but the underlying message is very serious. Crash deaths continue to rise on our roadways. Each of us can help change that by being a safe driver every time we get behind the wheel.”

What are my legal options after a car accident in Richmond?

If you or a loved one is injured in a car accident in Richmond, or anywhere in Virginia, Phelan Petty can help you seek damages for your losses. You can file a lawsuit to claim compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, property losses, and pain and suffering.

If your loved one is killed in a Virginia car accident, we can assist you with a wrongful death lawsuit. Under the law, the personal representative of the decedent may seek damages for the following losses:

  1. Sorrow, mental anguish, and solace which may include society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice of the decedent;
  2. Compensation for reasonably expected loss of (i) income of the decedent and (ii) services, protection, care and assistance provided by the decedent;
  3. Expenses for the care, treatment and hospitalization of the decedent incident to the injury resulting in death;
  4. Reasonable funeral expenses; and
  5. Punitive damages may be recovered for willful or wanton conduct, or such recklessness as evinces a conscious disregard for the safety of others

The attorneys at Phelan Petty want to help if you or a loved one suffered injury in a car accident. We understand how difficult it can be to secure compensation for your losses while you are trying to recover from serious injuries. Let our lawyers work on your behalf while you take the time you need. Our law firm is based in Richmond but we serve injured clients throughout the state. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 804-980-7100 or fill out our contact form.