No destination is worth your life. When COVID restrictions went into effect in 2020, transportation agencies experienced an uptick in excessive speeding and a shockingly high increase in fatal crashes. In 2021, there were 23,381 speed-related crashes in Virginia, resulting in 445 fatalities, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle’s preliminary data. This data shows a nearly 10% increase from 2020 and a 28% increase from 2019. In Stafford County alone, traffic fatalities rose from five in 2020 to nine in 2021, which surpassed the pre-pandemic number of six fatalities in 2019.
“Safety starts with individual drivers. If you obey traffic laws and speed limits, that helps protect you and others,” said the Chairman of the Stafford Board of Supervisors, Crystal Vanuch, Rock Hill District. “With the volume of traffic in our area and the major impact to roads from crashes, we ask all drivers to slow down and obey the speed limits.”
The onset of the pandemic significantly reduced traffic volume on roads in Stafford and across the Commonwealth. With the return of traffic congestion, some drivers are still trying to drive at high rates of speed despite the traffic. Speed limits are in place to protect all road users. Speeding reduces a driver’s ability to slow a vehicle when necessary or steer safely around an unexpected curve, another vehicle or hazardous object in the roadway. School zones or neighborhoods can include a child or an animal running across the road.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the odds of a crash resulting in a fatality increase exponentially as the speed of the incident rises. About 15 percent of the country’s speeding-related fatalities occur on interstate highways each year. Speeding endangers the life of the speeder and all of the people on the road around them, including law enforcement officers.
What can you do to help? Be alert, watch for speed limit signs, and obey the limits, especially in school zones, residential neighborhoods, and secondary roads. Give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination to reduce impatience. Obey lane-changing rules – stay to the right if traveling at slower speeds. Reserve the left lane for higher-speed traffic and emergency vehicles.