One-third of Botetourt vehicle accidents are on I-81; DMV map gives street-level details on where, causes, clusters of wrecks

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So far, there have been 306 reportable vehicle accidents in Botetourt County in 2017, according to the new interactive Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Crash Locations Map that can be accessed online through the DMV.

Botetourt’s fire and EMS volunteers and career staff can tell you I-81 draws a lot of their attention, and the data on the crash map bears that out. Fully one-third of those wrecks— 100 of them— were on I-81 or one of the exit ramps.

The DMV announced late last week it has again made traffic crash data more accessible for Virginians interested in gaining a better understanding of crashes occurring in their neighborhoods through the new Crash Locations Map (CLM).

DMV’s Highway Safety Office added an interactive Crash Locations Map to its website.

The new feature allows users to easily view information on crashes occurring locally or anywhere across the state, and filter those crashes to street level.

The data can also be narrowed by year and by mo

re than a dozen crash factors, such as speed, alcohol or texting.

The CLM also provides date and other information about individual accidents, including whether there was only property damage, how many injuries if any, whether a seatbelt was used and if there was a fatality.

All of these features are part of the Highway Safety Office’s state-of-the-art automated Traffic Records Electronic Data System (TREDS) that centralizes all of Virginia’s crash data and related information, the DMV announcement said. The public gained access to TREDS through DMV’s website for the first time in August 2011, and now citizens can search for the more specific, usable data.

No personal driver information is published. “TREDS is Virginia’s “one-stop-shop” for accurate, timely and detailed highway safety information for analysi

s and reporting,” the announcement said. “TREDS data is used to save lives—specifically to support Virginia’s efforts to reduce crashes, injuries, fatalities and associated costs.”

Besides individual street data, the website can also provide information like the number of wrecks on a particular highway, such as I-81.

As an example, the website shows the Botetourt’s other high-traffic roads— US 220, US 11, Alt. 220 and US 460— account for 122 (nearly 40 percent) of the wrecks so far in 2017.

The rest are spread around on secondary roads across the county.

Roanoke Road (US 220) between US 11 and Fincastle has had 32 wrecks so far in 2017— most are clustered in the Daleville area where traffic is heaviest.

Botetourt Road (US 220) between Fincastle and Iron

Gate has had 26 wrecks, including one of the two fatalities in the county this year. The other was on I-81.

Cloverdale Road (Alt. 220) has had 29 wrecks and Lee Highway (US 11) has had 27 between the Roanoke County line and Buchanan. There have been eight wrecks on Blue Ridge Boulevard (US 460) so far this year.

As expected, the Exit 150 area is where many wrecks occur— on US 11, US 220, Alt. 220 and I-81 and its exit and entrance ramps.

The CLM shows where there are other clusters o

f accidents, too. One example is on Barger Hill on Botetourt Road south of Eagle Rock. Five of the 29 wrecks on Botetourt Road between Fincastle and Iron Gate occurred within a couple hundred yards of each other in the curves in the northbound lane.

Those same sort of clusters show up on I-81.

The CLM can also be used to compare the number of wrecks between years— dating to 2013 when there were 632 wrecks reported countywide— and locations such as the Exit 167/168 area of I-81.

In 2013, there were 31 accidents in that stretch of interstate. So far in 2017, there have been 15— on track for a similar total despite the chevrons that were installed in the curves between the two exits to help slow traffic.

The number of wrecks has hovered around 600 each year, except for 2016 when there were 701 wrecks reported. In 2014 there were  586 wrecks and in 2015 there were 609.

The leading contributor: speed.

During 2017, speed has been a contributing factor in 83 (27 percent) of the accidents.

Interestingly, the CLM also has a record of how many reported accidents involve deer.

In 2017, 32 accidents have involved deer, just over 10 percent.

In each of the previous four years, deer have been involved in at least 13 to 16 percent of the accidents. It’s possible the percentage could rise in 2017, too, since the fall rut hasn’t occurred yet.

Generally, alcohol has been involved in fewer than 7 percent of the accidents. In 2017, just over 6 percent (19) have involved alcohol. Last year, 30 of the 701 wrecks (4.2 percent) had alcohol involved.

Other statistics for the first half of 2017 show 49 accidents involved teenagers 15-19 years old, 58 involved drivers 65 and over and 32 were in school zones.

Only two were reported where cell phone involved; 26 involved large trucks and 32 were commercial motor vehicles (tractor-trailers) that required a report to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb, the Governor’s Highway Safety representative, said in the news release, “Educating drivers is an important part of crash prevention. This new feature allows Virginians to see where crashes occur most in their neighborhoods and the factors causing those crashes.

“With this information, you might use extra caution when traveling through a particular intersection or remind a new driver of the hazards of driving at an unsafe speed on a road near your home where speed-related crashes happen regularly,” Holcomb continued.

In addition to the Crash Locations Map, DMV also hosts interactive features that allow users to create a Crash Data Report.

To access the map, visit: http://www.treds.virginia.gov/Mapping/Map/CrashesByJurisdiction.