City, county roadways less deadly in ’08

Published 8:51 am Saturday, August 1, 2009

FRANKLIN—After spiking to the highest level in more than a decade in 2007, traffic fatalities decreased dramatically across Virginia and locally in 2008, according to recently released statistics from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

In 2007, more than 1,000 people were killed in crashes on Virginia’s roadways. It was the deadliest year on the commonwealth’s roadways since 1990.

Last year, 821 traffic fatalities were reported on Virginia roadways. That marks a 20 percent decrease from 2007. Nationwide, traffic fatalities decreased nearly 10 percent from 2007 to 2008.

Locally, Franklin, Southampton and Isle of Wight counties all saw decreases in the number of fatal crashes in 2008 compared with 2007.

Franklin had one highway fatality in 2007 and none in 2008. Southampton County had 10 highway fatalities in 2007 and four in 2008. Isle of Wight County had 11 highway deaths in 2007 and nine in 2008.

Melanie Stokes, a spokeswoman for the DMV, said that there are several factors that contributed to the decrease in traffic deaths.

“With the economy, people are driving less and staying closer to home,” she said.

Stokes said that higher seat belt usage rates are also helping to decrease traffic deaths. DMV statistics show that the state’s seat belt usage rate rose from 79.9 percent in 2007 to 82.27 percent this year.

“We did a huge push with ‘Click It or Ticket,’” Stokes said. “Click It or Ticket” is a national campaign aimed at increasing seat belt usage. The DMV used a number of grants to publicize the program in the media and to help provide funding to law enforcement agencies to increase the visibility of officers on the state’s roadways.

So far, 2009 is turning out to be even less deadly than 2008. As of July 15, there were 14 percent fewer fatal crashes compared with the same time period in 2008.

“We’re hoping that trend is continuing,” Stokes said.

Alcohol-related crashes and fatalities also declined statewide and in Franklin and Southampton County. Isle of Wight County saw increases in both alcohol-related crashes and fatalities in 2008.