Encouraging road, motorist safety

Published 10:38 am Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Office of the Governor recently declared April as Highway Safety Month. State officials are focusing on statewide upward trends of addressing pedestrian fatalities and eliminating distracted driving. On the regional side, emphasis is placed on remaining focused while on the roads and addressing accidents caused by vehicles leaving the road or moving into other lanes.

According to a news release from the Office of the Governor Tuesday, Gov. Ralph Northam urged members of the state Executive Leadership Team on Highway Safety to call attention to the importance of pedestrian safety.

“In 2018, 123 pedestrians were killed in crashes in Virginia, a nearly 62-percent increase over the number of deaths (76) reported 10 years ago in 2008,” the release cited.

Other actions to improve road safety included an amendment to Senate Bill 1768, “which in its current form would prohibit drivers from holding a communications device in highway work zones,” according to the release. “The Governor’s proposed amendments would expand this hands-free legislation to be a statewide law.”


According to documentation from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), Lunenburg County saw approximately 101 total accidents between Jan. 1, 2018, and Jan. 1, 2019. Learn more about the statistics used by visiting http://dashboard.virginiadot.org/Pages/Safety/Crashes.aspx.

The most common accident cause for all three counties, according to VDOT statistics, consisted of vehicles crashing into a fixed object off the road. This accounted for 65 accidents in Lunenburg.

One fatality was recorded between January 2018 to 2019 to date from an accident that occurred in Lunenburg County.

Jones said VDOT examines roads or sites of fatal crashes to determine if the location may have been a factor.

According to VDOT, $2.2 billion of its annual 2019 budget of $5.4 billion is set for road maintenance and operations throughout the commonwealth.

Jones said VDOT and counties throughout Virginia hold a public hearing about projects within each county’s secondary road plan.

“VDOT looks at the sites of fatal crashes to determine if the road/ shoulder/bridge contributed to the result; in addition, we will investigate unusual circumstances and frequent incidents in a particular location,” Jones said. “We work with our law enforcement/emergency response partners and localities to identify these locations.”

Among some of the most common causes of accidents in the region, Jones said, are crashes in which vehicles go off the road or move into another lane.

“Many of the crashes in the Lynchburg District have been lane departure crashes,” VDOT representative Paula Jones said. “By this, I mean, cars leave the road and strike objects off the road surface or swerve into other lanes. In some portions of the district, seat belt use — or the lack thereof—has also been a contributing factor in fatalities/serious injuries related to crashes.”

Jones encouraged motorists to be prepared when leaving home, making sure their vehicles are working as they should, and eliminating distractions while on the road.

“Be prepared before driving,” Jones said. “Make sure your car is operating properly, that you have the necessary safety devices and use them and that you, as the driver, are physically/mentally prepared to be behind the wheel. Also, and this is very important, avoid distractions when driving. Statistics show that distracted driving is a significant factor in incidents.”