Too many have been lost

Published 10:59 pm Friday, February 13, 2015

Suffolk has had a slew of fatal automobile crashes since the beginning of the year, and the heartbreaking consequences of those accidents — families that have lost mothers, daughters, fathers and sons — should remind us all of the fleeting nature of life and the potential dangers of driving, an activity that most of us do without the slightest consideration of the risks.

The most recent of Suffolk’s fatalities occurred when a mother and daughter from North Carolina were killed in a head-on collision on Whaleyville Boulevard (Route 13) earlier this week. Folks who have traveled that road will recognize it as one of the most dangerous ones in Suffolk — right beside Carolina Road (Route 32) in its potential for disaster.

Both of those roads are long, two-lane stretches with a mix of local and long-distance traffic, slow drivers and speeders, patient and impatient. The results of that mix have been deadly far too many times through the years; this week’s story is far from the first tragedy to be recorded on these two roads.

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There was a time when the stretch of Route 58 between Courtland and Emporia was known darkly as “Suicide Strip” because of the number of fatal crashes that took place there. Similar to Whaleyville Boulevard and Carolina Road, that old highway was a two-lane ribbon that mixed up slow-moving local traffic and fast-moving long-haulers. Its geography and engineering resulted in an unusually high number of sleep-related accidents, and head-on collisions were common.

Virginia finally found the money to redesign and widen that road when the death toll became too much to bear for the public, for local governments and for legislators in Richmond. It will take a similar effort, applied during the years to come, to get Suffolk’s dangerous twin southbound roads fixed, which means the time is now for local leaders to embrace the cause and get to work.

Suffolk must begin to share the message — and the statistics behind it — loudly and clearly: Routes 13 and 32 are exceedingly dangerous, and it’s time to do something about it. Too many mothers and daughters, fathers and sons have been lost already.