As a West Virginia resident, you know that driving on our mountainous roads can be problematic at best. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that the rate of fatal vehicle accidents in West Virginia is higher not only than the national average, but also than the rates in all surrounding states other than Kentucky.
Last year alone, 242 motorists died on West Virginia’s turnpike, highways and roads by the end of November. The three primary factors accounting for our high roadway death rate are as follows:
- Mountainous terrain
- Driving while alcohol impaired
Per the NHTSA, 32 percent of our fatal accidents involve speeding and 25 percent involve a driver whose blood alcohol concentration is at or higher than 0.08 percent.
To make matters worse, our turnpike, which is dangerous per se, also has heavy truck traffic. In fact, one out of every five vehicles on the turnpike is a tractor-trailer. Given the size and weight of a big rig as compared to that of a passenger vehicle, thousands of people are at risk each year of being injured or killed in a car-truck crash on the turnpike.
Just last year, a North Carolina family of four driving the turnpike in an SUV on their way to visit family in Ohio were killed when they collided with a tractor-trailer at milepost 22 near Camp Creek. This is one of several turnpike sections known for deadly crashes due to their steep grades. It is not uncommon for truckers to lose control of their vehicles when descending these grades. Another well-known danger point is at the bottom of the tunnel hill at milepost 76.
Between 2000 and 2015, 114 people lost their lives on the turnpike, with loss of vehicle control causing 45 percent of these accidents. Other turnpike statistics include the following:
- Sixty-seven percent of crashes occur during daylight hours.
- Forty-five percent occur in clear weather.
- Forty-five percent are due to vehicle loss of control.
- Forty-four percent occur on straight, level stretches of road.
- Twenty percent occur on grades.
As a driver, your best chances of keeping yourself and your passengers safe on West Virginia roads are to slow down, stay constantly vigilant of other traffic, slow down even more at night and during inclement weather, and always insist that everyone in your vehicle wear his or her seat belt.