After deadly street races on I-64, experts warn of spike in fatal crashes

HENRY COUNTY, Va. — Two drivers who Virginia State Police say were racing on Interstate 64 died after a high-speed chain reaction crash over the weekend.

Although VSP said reports of increased street racing activity are only anecdotal, safety groups said general trends point to more speed-related deaths on Virginia roadways recently.

Around 1 a.m. Saturday, troopers responded to a crash on I-64 West near the Airport Road exit. According to the preliminary investigation, up to four drivers were running when a Jaguar rammed another vehicle not involved in the race. A Honda that was involved later collided with the Jaguar, causing it to flip into the woods, VSP said.

A 45-year-old man driving the Jaguar and a 17-year-old driver of the Honda died at the scene, investigators said.

VSP continues to seek information about the accident, but a spokesperson said in a statement over the weekend that the racing vehicles were driving at “excessive speeds when the accident occurred.”

Last year, the AP reported that law enforcement agencies and government bodies were seeing an increase in street racing activity across the country. A VSP spokesperson said that there has not been a detailed study of the problem in Virginia and that any increase reported here would be only anecdotal at this time.

Still, driver safety groups say the dangers of street racing for drivers are clear.

“Those cars are not made for that. You can ‘upgrade’ them, add suspension, tune them all you want, but they’re not race cars, and they never will be. And these are not roads you should be running on,” said Rich Jacobs with Drive Smart Virginia.

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Street racing or not, the number of fatal speed-related accidents in Virginia has increased dramatically since 2019. Although speed-related accidents overall decreased in 2020 and 2021, the number of fatalities increased.

According to data from the Virginia DMV, in 2019 there were 24,739 speed-related crashes and 349 fatalities. In 2020, crashes dropped to 22,479, but the number of fatalities skyrocketed to 406. A similar story in 2021, with 24,620 crashes with 445 speed-related fatalities.

The trend from 2019 to 2020 coincided with pandemic-related closures and fewer cars on Virginia’s roads, Jacobs said. Total highway miles increased in 2021.

“We’ve had fewer crashes, but the crashes we did see were statistically more violent, fewer survivors,” Jacobs said. “The energy of a collision does not double when the speed doubles; quadruples; increases exponentially. So a traffic crash at 60 miles per hour is four times more violent than one at 30 miles per hour.

So far in 2022, data shows there have been 14,867 speed-related crashes in Virginia and 258 fatalities.

When you come across another driver on the road who is driving recklessly or aggressively, Jacobs said it’s a good idea to safely keep your distance and try not to get involved.

“A police officer once said that people would do and say things, or gesture, and act towards other people on the road in a way that they would never do if they were interrupted in a line at the supermarket, where it is face to face. ,” he said. “The best thing you can do is stay calm, don’t make eye contact, don’t communicate with your hands, don’t send any messages to the other driver. Just let them get on the road because nothing is going to fix their stupidity.”

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If another driver’s behavior is extremely egregious or dangerous, Jacobs said, don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1 and report the incident.

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