VIRGINIA, USA — Virginia recorded the highest number of deadly car crashes across the state in 14 years in 2021, according to data released by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) this week.
Last year, DMV data showed 968 people died in crashes on Virginia roads, which marked a 14.3% increase over 2020 and the highest number of yearly fatalities since 2007.
The state data is following a troubling national trend, as National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data show more than 31,000 people died in crashes during the first nine months of 2021. The number marked a 12% increase over the same time period in 2020 and was the highest level during the first nine months of any year since 2006.
The Virginia report showed that deadly crashes increased across various categories, including speed-related fatalities.
"We basically showed an increase in all areas we cover. Whether it’s folks not belted and dying unbelted, whether we’re looking at speeding fatalities, whether it’s distracted driving," said DMV Virginia Highway Safety Office Director John Saunders. "This is not something that affects one demographic. This affects everyone.”
During an interview on Wednesday, Saunders told WUSA9 that habits picked up during the pandemic likely played into the increase in speed-related crashes.
"There were fewer people on the roadways and people just took it upon themselves to increase their speeds," he said. "I think we’re seeing some carryover of that."
The recommendations on how to make roads safer and decrease the number of deadly crashes are well-told steps to survival behind the wheel.
- Using a seatbelt
- Properly installing child safety seats
- Slowing down
- Not driving while distracted or texting
- Not driving while impaired
"That is something we can all do and that is our best defense," Saunders said. "Crashes are no accident. We make choices and these choices we make can lead to dire consequences.”
Saunders said drunk or unbuckled drivers and passengers made up a majority of the fatal cases.
Moving forward, he said being aware of the death numbers and causes of crashes could lead to drivers making better decisions.
"We may get away with it I don’t know how many times," he said. "There’s going to be one time that we could take someone else’s life.”