2011 Crash Details
Motor-vehicle crash data for the Northern Shenandoah Valley in 2011:
Source: Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (data current as of Dec. 28)
Speed blamed as factor in half of fatal accidents
By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Excessive speed factored into more than half the region's fatal motor vehicle crashes in 2011, which ended with a death toll of 29, according to state data.
Law enforcement agencies in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, along with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, plan to take action in the hopes of preventing crashes in the region.
"We're going to be doing a lot of impaired driving saturation patrols which will also incorporate any kind of distracted driving stuff that we see, or speeding offenses that we see," Frederick County Sheriff's Lt. Mike Richardson said last week.
Drivers can expect sobriety checkpoints in Frederick County and a "high volume" of safety checkpoints as well as the Click It Or Ticket seat belt enforcement effort, Richardson said. The agency also plans to continue driving safety programs at local high schools, he noted.
"Education in general is something we're definitely going to be still really focusing heavy on," Richardson said. "The whole point of education and enforcement is to bring attention to, you know, driving defensively, drive carefully. Anything can happen at any given time. You know, the distracted driving, I don't want to say just cell phones or texting. Anything can be distractive driving. You can be looking at someone getting a ticket on the side of the road and run head-on into somebody.
"It only takes a minute to take your eyes off the road and something bad can happen," Richardson added. "We want to get the message out that we really need to take a good look, everyone needs to take a really good look at their driving habits and play a factor in it by changing those habits."
Frederick County had 11 fatal crashes with 15 people killed in 2011, compared to seven fatal crashes and nine victims in 2010, and 12 crashes, each with one victim, in 2009.
Shenandoah County reported seven crashes with one victim each in 2011, compared to four crashes and five killed in 2010, and six crashes with nine people killed in 2009.
Warren County had four fatal crashes in 2011 with the same number of victims, compared to nine crashes and 12 people killed in 2010, and two crashes with one victim each in 2009, according to the data.
Clarke County reported three crashes and three victims in 2011, compared to three crashes and four victims in 2010, and eight crashes and the same number of victims in 2009.
Winchester had no fatal crashes in 2011 or 2010, but reported two victims in 2009.
While no single common denominator exists to link all the fatal crashes that occurred in the region, data provided by the DMV show as of Dec. 28, speed contributed to 13 of the region's 25 fatal crashes or 52 percent.
The percentage of all crashes in which speed played a factor dropped in each of the region's five localities, according to the DMV data.
The Frederick County Sheriff's Office plans to continue its efforts to promote safety on the roads.
"We always obviously try to do the proactive measures, whether that's different campaigns -- Click It and Ticket, speed enforcement and all that other kind of stuff which we do every year," McEathron said. "Any time we feel that there's an overabundance of accidents, maybe on a certain corridor."
Warren authorities continue to monitor Strasburg Road (Va. 55), which has seen numerous crashes and fatalities in the past several years, McEathron noted. But law enforcement in many localities looks to planning officials and the Virginia Department of Transportation to help prevent crashes through speed-reduction studies and road-improvement projects. McEathron said his office has been working with the county and VDOT to study speeds and possibly put up signs.
But McEathron acknowledged other factors may cause crashes.
"Maybe some of those accidents were just things that had nothing to do with speed or alcohol," McEathron said. "So anytime we have something like that we look at the area. We look at what we can do to try to reduce the numbers of incidents or accidents."
Maj. Scott Proctor, of the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office, mentioned the early-winter snowstorm on Tuesday morning and the numerous crashes -- no fatalities -- that came as a result.
"We've been kind of lucky with inclement weather so far this year and we did have a skiff of snow -- well, it was more than a skiff of snow -- come through the northern part of the county and it did cause some havoc," Proctor recalled.
Sometimes safety comes with common sense driving, authorities often say.
"We always try to get the word out that people really need to be careful, especially when it's this time of year and the temperature's been as low as it has been lately, that there's always the threat of icy spots left over from a storm a day or so ago," Proctor said. "In this case it was probably the first snowfall we had where the roads got covered. You know people kinda forget how to drive in it, to a degree, until they get reacclimated to it, and unfortunately you probably should get yourself in the mindset before it happens."
Shenandoah County uses its highway safety program on a limited basis in problem areas. Deputies take tips from residents and look for aggressive or drunken driving, Proctor said.