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'It's hell on earth:' Mom of slain Chesapeake teen warns of growing danger in Virginia

More than 1,000 people died on Virginia roads in 2022, a 15-year high
'It's hell on earth:' Mom of slain Chesapeake teen warns of growing danger in Virginia
'It's hell on earth:' Mom of slain Chesapeake teen warns of growing danger in Virginia
'It's hell on earth:' Mom of slain Chesapeake teen warns of growing danger in Virginia
'It's hell on earth:' Mom of slain Chesapeake teen warns of growing danger in Virginia
'It's hell on earth:' Mom of slain Chesapeake teen warns of growing danger in Virginia
'It's hell on earth:' Mom of slain Chesapeake teen warns of growing danger in Virginia
'It's hell on earth:' Mom of slain Chesapeake teen warns of growing danger in Virginia
'It's hell on earth:' Mom of slain Chesapeake teen warns of growing danger in Virginia
Posted at 5:54 AM, Feb 20, 2023

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. — There is little in this world that can prepare a parent for the loss of their own child. Tammy Duffy knows that pain all too well.

"It was a mother's worst nightmare that we just never dreamed would happen," Duffy shared with News 3 anchor Blaine Stewart when he visited her home in Chesapeake.

'It's hell on earth:' Mom of slain Chesapeake teen warns of growing danger in Virginia

It's been nearly six years since Kaitlyn Duffy, 18, was killed as she drove her Honda CR-V along Indian River Road near the Pungo section of Virginia Beach. She was headed back to Chesapeake after spending the day at Sandbridge Beach when a man who was driving drunk, high, and on a suspended license, crashed a furniture delivery truck into her SUV. Duffy, along with her new puppy, died. A passenger, friend Sabrina Mundorff, survived with lifelong injuries.

"It's really difficult to try to survive... an insurmountable loss, such as losing it your child, like Kaitlyn, but it really destroyed our family," Kaitlyn's mother reflects. "It's hell on earth, to be honest with you."

A troubling trend on Virginia's roads

Kaitlyn's death is part of a surge in traffic-related fatalities in the Commonwealth. News 3 looked back at more than 15 years of highway traffic safety data. According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, 1,010 people died as a result of crashes on Virginia's roadways, the largest number since 2007. Since then, our analysis reveals a steady climb in the number of fatalities. Police officers across Hampton Roads are taking notice.

"People, I don't think, respect cars. You can kill people as easily with a car as you can with a gun," says Master Police Officer N. Worthing of the Virginia Beach Police Department.

News 3 spent part of a morning with members of the Virginia Beach Police Department'sTraffic Safety Unit, a special group of officers dedicated to keeping motorists safe on city streets. These officers also deploy to the scene of serious or fatal vehicle crashes and see, first-hand, the consequences of this growing trend.

"We have a lot of [crashes] involving marijuana drivers. We're seeing more and more people who are taking opiates while they drive cars," Officer Worthing shares.

Fatal Crash Causes.jpeg
The three leading causes of fatal crashes in Virginia

According to crash statistics, the leading causes of traffic-related fatalities involve drunk or impaired driving, excessive speed, and distracted driving. In 2020, Virginia enacted atotal ban on handheld devices, like cell phones, while driving.

"In the Traffic Safety Unit, what we deal with a lot is the repercussions of bad choices," Officer Worthing shares.

City and county breakdown

Virginia Beach ranks third in the Commonwealth, behind Fairfax and Henrico Counties, for the number of traffic-related deaths. The City of Norfolk ranked fifth in the most recent reporting from VDOT.

  • Fairfax County – 50 fatalities
  • Henrico County – 37 fatalities
  • Virginia Beach – 34 fatalities
  • Prince William County – 32 fatalities
  • Norfolk – 28 fatalities

Police departments across Virginia are also troubled by the number of fatalities involving pedestrians. In fact, according to VDOT, 25% of people killed in traffic crashes in the Commonwealth were not inside a vehicle. 125 pedestrians were killed, 102 people on motorcycles, and 16 people on bicycles died in crashes.

Non-Vehicle Deaths.jpeg
25% of people killed on Virginia's roads were not inside a vehicle.

Searching for solutions

How does Virginia reverse this deadly trend on our roads? Enforcement is one tool officers, deputies, and troopers have at their disposal. Aside from the distracted driving law Virginia enacted, police officers, like those in Virginia Beach's Traffic Safety Unit, are attempting to crack down on impaired or otherwise unsafe drivers through aggressive enforcement. Drivers who witness unsafe behavior on Virginia's Interstate Highway System, such as Interstates 64, 264, 464, 564, and 664 in Hampton Roads, can dial *77 to be connected directly to Virginia State Police.

Groups like Drive Safe Hampton Roads also offer 'Sober Ride' programs, offering free or reduced-price Lyft rides during major events and holidays where alcohol is typically consumed, such as New Year's Eve and Independence Day. Community education also plays a part in the solution. Kaitlyn Duffy's mother, Tammy, is now a volunteer with Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Recently, she spoke to a group of thousands of sailors at Naval Station Norfolk about the dangers of impaired driving.

Then, there are court punishments police hope will deter would-be drunk drivers. The man who killed Kaitlyn, Jerode Johnson, was sentenced to 47 years in prison. Her mother tells News 3 the family's suffering may never end.

"The lifetime of pain that we have to suffer is a life sentence," Tammy Duffy says.

Also enduring is Kaitlyn's spirit. She was set to graduate from Great Bridge High School in Chesapeake less than a month after she was killed. The cheerleader and Girl Scout planned to attend Virginia Tech to pursue her dreams of becoming a doctor. A scholarship in Kaitlyn's name has been established at the school for aspiring medical students. Contributions by check made out to Great Bridge High School can be mailed to:

Great Bridge High School
301 W. Hanbury Road
Chesapeake, VA 23322
Attn: Kaitlyn Duffy Scholarship Fund