Fatal crashes on the rise

Published 9:22 pm Saturday, August 5, 2017

Suffolk experienced a steep rise in the number of traffic fatalities on its roads in the first six months of 2017.

Ten people died on the city’s roads during the first half of this year, more than during the same time period in any of the prior five years.

Eight people died in fatal crashes from January through June in 2012. That was the next-highest year from 2012 through 2016, which saw three fatalities in its first six months.

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The average number of fatalities for the first halves of the five years prior to 2017 was 5.6.

City spokeswoman Diana Klink acknowledged the numbers but said police have not been able to determine a reason for the upward trend.

“There are no patterns emerging, as all fatalities are for various reasons such as speed, stop sign violations, distraction, etc.,” she wrote in an email.

She did note there were multiple double fatalities, which had driven the numbers up.

One of those crashes that resulted in a double fatality happened near the end of June. Paul E. Shinabery, 57, of Smithfield, and Donald A. Mohorn, 56, of Hampton, died in a crash in the afternoon of Sunday, June 25. The wreck involved four vehicles and sent three other people to the hospital with serious or critical injuries.

Another double-fatality crash happened on Old Myrtle Road on May 1. Other fatal accidents happened on the downtown exit from U.S. Route 58 westbound; on Interstate 664; on Bridge Road near Eclipse; on Godwin Boulevard; on Holland Road; and on Indian Trail.

Klink said the city is taking steps to improve traffic safety in Suffolk.

“We have been aggressively working areas that have been identified as having the potential to be traffic safety areas,” she wrote.

One effort includes participating in the National Law Enforcement Challenge, a traffic safety recognition program. It focuses on traffic safety issues of impaired driving, occupant protection and speed awareness.

The Suffolk Police Department has selected the corridor of Route 58 from the Godwin Boulevard exit to the Chesapeake city line to participate in the program, Klink said. They did so due to its history of fatalities and aggressive-driving complaints.

One of the fatalities from the first half of this year happened on an exit ramp in this zone.

“Traffic patrols, DUI enforcement and the participation in the Click It or Ticket program have had a significant impact on the severity of accidents within this zone,” Klink wrote.

In June, the national transportation research group TRIP released a report on fatality rates on America’s rural roads. Virginia was ranked 11th of all the states for rural road fatalities.

Because it is in an urban area, Suffolk didn’t meet the definition of rural for purposes of the report. But many of its roads are quite rural in spite of its urban areas, and many of its fatal crashes happen in these rural areas.

“This is a Top 15 list that we don’t want to be a part of,” said Paul Miklich, president of Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance.

“The TRIP report is conclusive proof that Virginians deserve better when it comes to transportation. That begins with ensuring we have adequate transportation funding so that Virginians can enjoy reliable, efficient and, most importantly, safe roads, whether traveling through a city or our beautiful countryside. Only with proper funding will our rural communities — and our entire state — be able to thrive.”

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles recently released a new tool to help residents and travelers track crashes in their areas. The online tool allows users to filter by year, location and many different types of crashes, including those that involved alcohol, distracted driving, a young driver, an older driver or an obstruction like a deer or a train.

To access the tool, visit www.dmv.virginia.gov, click on “Highway Safety” and click on “Explore the Crash Location Map by Jurisdiction.”