HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Every year, deadly car crashes cause heartbreak for families across Hampton Roads.
A News 3 investigation is looking into intersections with a high number of crashes.
The top crash location in Virginia Beach is the intersection of Indian River Road and Kempsville Road, ranking number one in 2021 with 49 accidents, according to the Virginia Beach Police Department.
An estimated 20,160 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the first half of 2021, up 18.4% over 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The agency said that’s the largest number of projected fatalities in that time period since 2006.
“This is a crisis. More than 20,000 people died on U.S. roads in the first six months of 2021, leaving countless loved ones behind. We cannot and should not accept these fatalities as simply a part of everyday life in America,” said United States Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
The Governors Highway Safety Association projected that the U.S. pedestrian fatality rate per billion vehicle miles traveled (VMT) jumped to 2.3 deaths in 2020 – an unprecedented 21% increase from 1.9 in 2019.
Deadly crashes cause sudden and extreme pain for many families.
Charlotte Rose Wade was just 15 years old when she was struck and killed by a car while she was crossing Northampton Boulevard in 1970.
Her family said on Halloween night, Charlotte, the oldest of six children, finished taking her siblings out trick-or-treating. She went back out with friends, and while walking home was struck by a drunk driver.
Family members said Charlotte was like a second mother to her siblings and had dreams of being a music teacher. The entire family was devastated when she died.
“Her death was sudden and it was horrifying,” said her sister, Shandra Pope.
News 3 sat down with Charlotte’s mother, two sisters and brother to talk about the impacts her death had on the family.
“You ask yourself, 'Why? Why did it happen?'” said her sister, Brenda Ingram.
“It traumatized us all to be that young and to lose a sibling,” said Thomas Wade.
News 3 interviewed Dr. Bryan Porter, a psychology professor and the associate dean of Old Dominion University's graduate school. Porter said he has been studying traffic for 30 years.
“Most crashes and deaths are going to occur here, Fairfax and Richmond. That's just the year-to-year. That's what happens in Virginia,” Porter said.
News 3 started investigating after our crews witnessed multiple accidents near Colley Ave and 25th and 26th Streets. Through the Freedom of Information Act, we requested the number of crashes in that location.
Norfolk city officials provided data that stated over a two-year period, there were about 34 crashes at those intersections, but that location didn’t make the top of the list of Norfolk's worst crash locations.
“These complicated interchanges create a high likelihood of crashes,” Porter said.
The Norfolk Police Department issued News 3 the following list of the top crash locations in the city in 2021:
- Northampton Blvd/Wesleyan Dr.
- 5 Points
- N. Military Hwy./E. Little Creek Rd.
- Tidewater Dr./E. Princess Anne Rd.
- N. Military Hwy./E. Princess Anne Rd./Northampton Blvd.
- Lafayette Blvd./Tidewater Dr.
- Tidewater Dr./Thole St.
- Poplar Hall Dr./N. Military Hwy.
- Chesapeake Blvd./E. Little Creek Rd.
- E. 26th St./Monticello Ave.
The DMV also tracks this information. You can go online and search an area or city and find crash information.
In 2021 in Virginia Beach, many of the clusters of crashes occurred near on-ramps to I-264. In Hampton, many of the crashes happened along W. Mercury Boulevard.
“Many of the locations that are high-risk for crashes are those that you would expect. So, urban areas, lots of traffic, lots of exposure to other vehicles - those are the natural areas where there's going to be crashes,” Porter said.
Porter said despite fewer people on the roads during the height of the pandemic, studies found that the fatality rate spiked because people were driving more recklessly.
Porter also said that when it comes to crashes, there are many factors.
“The age of a driver matters; we know that the gender of drivers matters; we know the driver experience matters. By the way, politics matter, education matters, social-economic status matters. All of those things actually predict public health and safety and predict safety on the roads,” Porter said.
To make one intersection safer, the City of Virginia Beach recently put up a crosswalk near Burton Station and Northampton Blvd. in Virginia Beach.
“This is a long time coming. long time coming,” said Linda Carrington, who has been an advocate fighting to add crosswalks to the area.
It’s the same spot where Wade died 50 years ago.
“Whenever we go to pass through, we can’t help but hope and pray that this never happens to another family,” Pope said.
Carrington gathered petitions from people living nearby and fought over the past 20 years for this crosswalk.
“It’s an awesome feeling. It was a long time coming but she [Carrington] worked very hard for it. We really appreciate it,” Ingram said.
“It makes me feel so good. It makes me feel excited, so excited. I love it,” Carrington said.
This new crosswalk will hopefully make people safer — but what else can drivers do to reduce crashes and fatalities?
Porter said the number one thing people can do is to slow down, wear seat belts and put the phones and other distractions away while driving.
“Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of all time of crashes now,” Porter said.
Crashes that leave families heartbroken.