Speeding in Virginia Skyrockets on Empty Roads — Charlottesville Among Cities With Highest Increase in Speeding Collisions in Recent Years

Speeding in Virginia Skyrockets on Empty Roads — Charlottesville Among Cities With Highest Increase in Speeding Collisions in Recent Years

While there are fewer cars on the road in the era of social distancing, Virginia law enforcement has reported a significant increase in speeding citations — and for faster speeds than usual. Given the increase in risky driving behavior, ValuePenguin identified the Virginia cities with the highest risk of speeding collisions.

The Virginia State Police (VSP) has reported an uptick in speeding across the state, even as vehicle traffic remains well below average. The VSP has even shared examples of recent speeding tickets handed out on social media, including one for 124 miles per hour (mph) in a 55 mph zone.

In just one day in early May, the VSP stopped eight drivers for speeds over 100 mph, including on I-95, which is typically considered one of the country's most crowded roadways.

Local authorities remain concerned about the risk of collisions and resulting injuries. While crashes were down by 78% between March 25th and April 25th of this year relative to 2019, fatalities have fallen only 35%, suggesting accidents are becoming more dangerous. The VSP has attributed much of the growing injury risk to speeding.

As a result, ValuePenguin decided to investigate speeding trends across Virginia cities. We found that Virginia cities vary drastically in terms of speeding collisions per capita, and while some have seen reductions in crashes over time, others have witnessed substantial increases in speeding-related collisions.

Key findings:

1. Drivers in Fredericksburg, Petersburg, Bristol, Emporia and Norfolk saw the highest rates of speeding collisions per capita in 2019, all with more than 40 collisions per 10,000 residents.

2. Conversely, drivers in Buena Vista, Lynchburg, Lexington, Poquoson and Franklin had some of the lowest rates of speeding collisions last year, all under eight collisions per 10,000 residents.

3. Roughly half of the 38 Virginia cities analyzed saw increases in speeding collisions between 2017 and 2019. Williamsburg, Charlottesville, Norton, Roanoke and Galax all saw the greatest increases, with crashes growing between 40% and nearly 90%.

4. Other cities have shown reductions in speeding collisions, with the most dramatic declines in Lynchburg, Salem, Redford, Franklin and Staunton.

This image shows Virginia cities with the highest and lowest speeding-related collisions.

Table of contents

Virginia cities with highest and lowest rates of speeding crashes

The Virginia cities in which speeding crashes occur at the highest rates are Fredericksburg, Petersburg and Bristol, the three of which have an average crash rate of 54.0 collisions per 10,000 residents.

Which Virginia cities are the safest for speeding? There was a clear winner: Buena Vista was the only city included in our analysis that did not record any speeding-related collisions in 2019. Smaller cities with populations under 25,000 tended to be safer than larger cities for speeding, though there are exceptions.

Fredericksburg has the highest rate of speeding-related collisions

Virginia saw an average of 23.7 crashes per 10,000 residents statewide. However, collision rates varied from as low as 0 to as high as 59.7. I-95, notoriously one of the most dangerous interstates in the country, passes right through Fredericksburg, as well as Petersburg and Emporia.


RankCountyCrashes per 10,000 residents
1Fredericksburg59.7
2Petersburg56.1
3Bristol46.1
4Emporia44.9
5Norfolk43.9
N/AVirginia average23.7

Buena Vista is the safest city for speeding-related collisions

Buena Vista, a small city home to Southern Virginia University, recorded no speeding collisions in 2019 and was the only city in our analysis to do so. In fact, Buena Vista has recorded only one speeding crash over the past three years.



RankCountyCrashes per 10,000 residents
1Buena Vista0.0
2Lynchburg3.9
3Lexington4.2
4Poquoson5.7
5Franklin7.5
N/AVirginia average23.7

Virginia cities diverge in improving speeding safety over time

When comparing data from the past three years, Virginia cities appear split in terms of improving road safety. While crashes increased by 3.7% across all cities, results differ drastically by city.

In fact, of the 38 cities analyzed, 18 saw increases in speeding-related collisions, three cities saw no change and 17 saw crashes decline.

  • Williamsburg saw the greatest increase over the period, with speeding-related crashes growing by 88%.
  • Lynchburg saw the most improvement, with collisions dropping 47%.

Largest increases in speeding-related collisions

RankCityPercent change
1Williamsburg87.5%
2Charlottesville61.2%
3Norton42.9%
4Roanoke41.5%
5Galax40.0%
N/AVirginia average3.7%

Largest reductions in speeding-related collisions

RankCityPercent change
1Lynchburg-46.7%
2Salem-44.3%
3Radford-42.3%
4Franklin-33.3%
5Staunton-28.3%
N/AVirginia average3.7%

Virginia cities with highest and lowest rates of speeding-related fatalities

While traffic collisions are down in 2020 relative to last year, fatalities are largely flat. In fact, the VSP reports that traffic fatalities have only declined by two deaths year to date, as of April 28, relative to the similar period in 2019. As a result, we identified Virginia cities with the highest and lowest risks of speeding-related fatalities.

Emporia has the highest speeding-related fatality rate

At 19.5 fatalities per 100,000 residents, Emporia was well above the Virginia average of 3.1.

RankCitySpeeding fatalities per 100,000 residents
1Emporia19.5
2Galax15.6
3Petersburg9.5
4Martinsville7.8
5Suffolk7.7
N/AVirginia average3.1

Many small and midsize Virginia cities recorded no speeding-related fatalities in 2019

Nearly half of the Virginia cities included in our analysis did not report any speeding fatalities last year. These cities, all of which had populations less than 100,000, include:

  • Williamsburg
  • Norton
  • Falls Church
  • Bristol
  • Winchester
  • Poquoson
  • Lexington
  • Buena Vista
  • Harrisonburg
  • Hopewell
  • Covington
  • Manassas Park
  • Staunton
  • Franklin
  • Redford
  • Salem

Consequences of speeding

Virginia drivers caught speeding may face serious legal and financial consequences.

The state typically fines drivers $6 per mile over the legal speed limit, in addition to a $51 processing fee. Yet, the fee for excess speed increases to $7 if the motorist is pulled over in a school or construction zone.

  • For instance, a driver caught going 20 mph over the speed limit would pay $51 + 20($6) = $171.
  • If the speeding violation occurred in a school zone, the driver would pay $51 +20($7) = $191.
  • Generally, however, speeding ticket fines are capped at $250, and court fees may vary depending on how you contest your violation.

Similarly, Virginia drivers caught speeding will likely be subject to an increase in insurance rates, perhaps as high as 33%, as drivers with traffic violations on their records are considered higher risks to insure.

  • The average annual premium in Virginia for a minimum coverage policy is $607.
  • Following a speeding violation, a driver paying this amount could see their rate increase by $201 to an annual premium of $808.

Depending on the driver's speed and plea in court, they will likely receive demerit points

  • 1-9 mph over the speed limit results in 3 demerit points
  • 10-19 mph over the speed limit results in 4 demerit points
  • 20+ mph over the speed limit results in 6 demerit points

Methodology

Speeding collision data from 2017-2020 in Virginia was collected from Virginia's Traffic Records Electronic Data System (TREDS) and the Virginia State Police (VSP). Population data was collected from the U.S. Census Bureau. Cities were only included in the analysis if they were in the TREDS database and had at least 5,000 residents.

Michael Hoffmann is a Senior Research Analyst focused on insurance. He was previously a Technology Editor at The Economist Intelligence Unit and has had prior roles as an ETF and Equity Analyst focused on emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and cloud computing.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.