More fatalities on non-interstate roads in the Shenandoah Valley
According to Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) traffic data, there have been more fatalities on non-interstate roads in the Shenandoah Valley this year.
So far in 2019, three dozen people have died in crashes on non-interstate roads, like Routes 259, 340, and 33. The number of people who have died on interstates in crashes is seven.
Sgt. CJ Aikens, with Virginia State Police, said there are different challenges and potential dangers to rural roads that interstates don't have. Interstates are restricted roads, meaning cyclists, pedestrians and mopeds can't be on the interstate, for instance, which eliminates one factor. However, they can all be on primary and secondary roads.
Sgt. Aikens said rural roads also often don't have barriers or medians dividing traffic, which means a vehicle could suddenly come into oncoming traffic and cause a head-on crash. Animals can also suddenly run into the road, causing crashes as well. While that can happen on interstates as well, many sections of interstate are likely to have more control measures in place to prevent that.
Sgt. Aikens said it's important to look ahead and be prepared for what could happen.
"One thing I try to practice is just running through different scenarios while you're driving down the road," Sgt. Aikens said. "Hey, if a deer jumps out at me right now, where are my escape rights. Where I can I go to the left or the right, or do I have to hit my brakes."
Sgt. Aikens said it's important to drive the speed limit as well. He said going the speed limit can help drivers have enough time to become aware of any potential accidents, and find ways to avoid them. He said they're also important for controlling your vehicle.
"Those speed limits, they're there for a reason," Sgt. Aikens said. "And even those warning signs, 'Hey. you're coming up on an S curve, reduce your speed, maximum safe speed is 35, 45 miles an hour.' There's a reason that it's that way."
Sgt. Aikens added that all drivers should put away their phones and distractions to focus on the road, and always wear their seatbelts. In recent years, more than half of the people who died in Virginia crashes in vehicles equipped with safety restraints were not using them.