A Front Royal man died in a Sunday afternoon crash on a county roadway with a history of accidents.
Austin E. Howard, 65, was driving a 2001 Ford Ranger westbound on Va. 55 (John Marshall Highway), when he crossed a double solid yellow center line and collided head-on with an eastbound 2011 Ford F-150, according to Virginia State Police Sgt. Brent Coffey.
The crash occurred at 2:08 p.m. just east of Greenfield Road.
Howard died at the scene as a result of his injuries. He was wearing a seat belt, Coffey stated.
The driver of the F-150, a 41-year-old man from Annapolis, Maryland, suffered minor injuries and was treated at the scene, Coffey states. A 7-year-old boy in the F-150 suffered minor injuries and was transported to a local hospital for treatment. Both occupants of the F-150 were wearing seat belts, Coffey stated.
Trooper W. Diberardine is investigating the crash. Alcohol and speed were not factors, but a medical incident and distracted driving cannot be ruled out as causes, Coffey said.
According to the National Weather Service’s observation area at the Front-Royal Warren County Airport, .01 inch of precipitation had fallen in the area of the crash between 2 and 3 p.m.
The accident occurred about quarter mile east past the intersection with High Knob Road, which has had several accidents since 2016, according to crash data with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
There were 13 crashes in 2020 at that intersection, eight in 2019 and nine in 2018, one in 2017, and two in 2016.
Several Virginia Department of Transportation projects for improving safety in the area have been discussed, including expanding the roadway to four lanes.
But expanding the roadway would cost $32 million, so adding turn lanes at the intersection was proposed for a cost of $5 million. The roadway would need to be expanded 720 feet for that project to occur.
A vehicle detection system has also been discussed to alert drivers to cars at the intersection.
VDOT spokesperson Sandy Myers said by telephone that the projects haven’t moved forward because other roadway projects in the state have taken priority.
Interim Warren County Administrator Edwin Daley said rumble strips have been added to the intersection area, and the speed limit was lowered from 55 mph to 45 mph for part of the roadway.
Warren County Supervisor Tony Carter, who represents the Happy Creek District that includes John Marshall Highway, said the four-lane project is one of his priorities, but he acknowledged the difficulty in getting the project funded with competition coming from across the state.
Warren County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Robert Mumaw said the intersection is “a problem area for us.”
The agency recently began an “Obey the Sign or Pay the Fine” campaign to reduce speeding in the county, including John Marshall Highway, Mumaw said.
One four-hour enforcement sessions, Mumaw said, resulted in 16 court summons, ranging from seat belt violations to speeding.