After deadly street racing on I-64, experts warn of increase in fatal crashes

After deadly street racing on I-64, experts warn of increase in fatal crashes

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Two drivers, who Virginia State Police say were street 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 the overall trends point to more speed-related deaths on Virginia roadways recently.

On Saturday around 1 a.m., troopers responded to a wreck on I-64 West near the Airport Road exit. According to the preliminary investigation, up to four drivers were racing, when a Jaguar hit another vehicle not involved in the race. A Honda that was involved then collided with the Jaguar, causing it to overturn into the woods, VSP said.

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

VSP continues to seek information on the wreck, but a spokesperson said in a statement over the weekend the racing vehicles were driving at an “excessive rate of speed when the crash occurred.”

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

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

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

Street racing or not, the number of fatal wrecks involving speed in Virginia has increased dramatically since 2019. Although overall speed-related wrecks went down in 2020 and 2021, the number of fatalities went up.

Per Virginia DMV data, in 2019, there were 24,739 speed-related crashes and 349 fatalities. In 2020, crashes decreased to 22,479, but the number of fatalities shot up 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 roadways, Jacobs said. Overall road miles increased in 2021.

“We’ve had fewer crashes, but the crashes that we did see were statistically more violent, less survivable,” Jacobs said. “The energy of a collision doesn’t double when you double the speed; it quadruples; it 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 show there have been 14,867 speed-related crashes in Virginia and 258 fatalities.

When encountering another driver on the roadway who is driving recklessly or aggressively, Jacobs said it is a good idea to safely keep your distance and try to not engage.

“A police officer once told people will do and say things, or you know gesture, and act toward other people on the road in a way they would never do if they cut them off at a line in the supermarket, where it’s face to face,” he said. “The best thing to do is remain calm, don’t make eye contact, don’t communicate with your hands, don’t flash any messages to the other driver. Just let them go on down the road because nothing is going to fix their stupidity.”

If the behavior of another driver is extremely egregious or dangerous, Jacobs said do not hesitate to call 9-1-1 and report the incident.

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