Fatal crashes: Three deaths in 14 hours

Two separate crashes have claimed three lives in Albemarle County since Thursday night, and two others are in serious condition. According to police, none of the victims were wearing seatbelts.

A Kia Optima burst into flames on Half Mile Branch Road in Crozet at 7:50pm November 10, an incident that appears to be the result of alcohol and excessive speed, say police. The car driven by Jessica Lewis, 36, of Crimora, struck a large tree south of King Family Vineyards, according to Sergeant Darrell Byers with Albemarle police.

Lewis was partially ejected from the car. Passengers Amber Leigh Johnson, 20, a graduate of Western Albemarle High School, and Michael Wayne Johnson, 40, of Crozet, were not in the car when it caught fire.

"I don't know how they got out," says Byers. They were flown to UVA Medical Center, where both died of their injuries. Lewis remains in serious condition and has been charged with driving under the influence. Additional charges may be pending.

Speed may have been a factor in the collision on eastbound Interstate 64 at exit 120 Friday at 10:25am. A 1997 Honda Civic and a 1985 Ford Ranger collided in the far left lane, causing the pickup to roll over at least three times, according to the Virgina State Police.

Larry L. Taylor, 59, of Louisa, the driver of the truck, was partially ejected and died at the scene. His cousin, D.J. Taylor, a passenger, was completely ejected from the truck and taken to UVA Medical Center with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries.

Charlottesville resident Samuel A. Wells, 25, the driver of the Honda Civic, was not injured. The investigation continues and charges are pending, say State Police.

Of the 12 traffic fatalities in Albemarle in 2010, seven of those were not wearing seatbelts, according to police.

Updated November 14 with the names of those involved in the I-64 collision.


The speed limit on I64 going through Charlottesville needs to be reduced, or we will see many more fatal accidents.

It's already 65 mph thru Cville on I-64. What we need is strict seat belt enforcement and more inspections on 18 wheelers.

Speed doesn't kill - stupidity kills. Dropping the speed limit won't decrease traffic fatalities any more than the Volstead Act decreased the consumption of intoxicants or alcoholism.

Design developments have made cars and highways safer now than they've ever been, but nothing has been done to make vehicle operators safer.

We can start by not granting a driver's license to someone just because they can drive around the block without hitting anything. The process needs to be more like obtaining a private pilot's license.

@carmicheals One of the hallmarks of stupidity is driving too fast--that is if you consider it stupid to pursue behaviors that increase your chance of an accident. Data prove the point; actuarial tables plot out things like affect of speed on likelihood of having an accident. Slowing the hell down is one thing we all could do to reduce accidents and the severity of those that occur.

"Actuarial tables imply that women are less likely than men to drive fast. They also own less-expensive cars that don’t cost as much to repair. Because they don’t drive as fast, any accidents they have cause less damage, meaning the insurance company usually pays less for a claim by a woman driver."


I believe the speed limit should be lowered to 55mph in the heavily traveled area of I64 through Charlottesville and Albemarle. With increased development this is a local thoroughfare during several hours of the day.

Without knowing the cause of the crash, we should wait to determine if anything should be done.

How can you blame speed in an accident without any idea of the reasons behind the accident or the motives of the drivers involved? Why don't you factor in the failure to use seatbelts? All you're doing is causing trouble.

To be fair, all that anyone does in comment sections is cause trouble. I'm all for the banishment of comment sections on news stories.

Jim- you are correct on detrerminiung the cause(s) prior to doing something about it.

as for your "to be fair"- no comment........no fun....

I do not understand how suggesting a lower speed limit is making trouble, this is a suggestion.

Along I81 through Pa. there was an accident problem in the area of Wilkes Barre and the speed limit there was lowered to 55mph -the accident rate and thereby injury rate dropped. The same is true in the area of Scranton.

When you have a heavily congested area near a city, with numerous exits and entrances, it just makes sense that speed would lead to more accidents. Whether this accident was speed related or not it has become obvious that if you travel this stretch speed makes this a more dangerous road and a lower speed would improve safety for everyone.

How come both exits 118 and 118 B off 64 are so terribly designed? They throw people into a heavy merge lane! It's been bad since day one, why not fix it before they add more lanes to 29? Sorry those folks died and were injured, but if you don't wear your seat belts folks, then you are doing yourself in.

@? I agree but lowering the speed limit along that entire stretch would cost nothing and have an immediate impact on safety.

@Cows - the IIHS and insurance lobby are basing their "speed kills" mantra on flawed data:


Nancy Drew- what should the speed be reduced to and how would you enforce it?

I had suggested 55mph and it would be enforced the same as any speed limit on I64 is enforced. This is standard on major highways as I reference above for I81 thru the Scranton area, where the speed limit drops to 55 .

Scranton and Wilkes Barre and I81 are a different story than what we have here.........

I81 is the major trucking route through the Eastern States. It has areas where the speed limit is 70+.

I drive 40k car miles per year in a two state area- have seen it all- have covered the entire Northeast and East Coast during my career and speed limits do not kill anyone...........

crappy drivers, inattention, and agressive driving do.

55 through the Charlottesville area, because it is a straight road, not like the Richmond or Rochester, NY "can of worms" will never happen.

I suggest that drivers stay alert, drive defensively and get out of my way!

Drivers completely ignoring the Yield signs entering 64-East from 29 South and 20 South is one big problem. I've yet to see the state police enforce those signs at either interchange.

I still stick to my belief that higher speed limits are more dangerous, and yes some drivers are better than others ( age-mental capacity-physical disability) but higher speeds are more challenging for many people when they encounter more entrances and exits as there are in this area.

What's so bad about slowing down for a few miles ?

The exit/entrance at 118B is horrible! It needs completely redesigned.

Throwthebumsout- they are yield signs, not stop signs..........a lot of drivers need to be educated in the art of looking and then GETTING UP TO SPEED- not STOPPING and wondering WTF to do next!

Having had some time to think about it, I'd have to say I wouldn't complain too much about 64 at Cville being reduced to 55, but not because of these crashes. It's because of the design of the 118 and 120/121 interchanges. They're especially bad at "rush hour."

Thanks Jim for being willing to reflect on an idea, rather than dismiss it immediately. I agree, my concern is not making the change because of this crash, but for the same reasons you mention.

And Jim, I hope you'll also reconsider your feelings about comment boards, just sometimes information gets revealed that can help solve a problem or a crime and for those reasons I value the Hook's reporting and easily accessed comment section.

I can always choose not to read them...

"To be fair, all that anyone does in comment sections is cause trouble. I'm all for the banishment of comment sections on news stories."

I bet you're fun at parties.

118 B is a death trap, but I doubt reducing the speed limit would have any effect.

Amen Harry D. Freezing up on an on ramp is my biggest pet peeve. It is often a symptom of DWA (Driving While Ancient) or cell phone use, the latter being something that actually needs to be enforced.

We need to outlaw the new-fangled contraptions all together. They've been nothing but trouble from the beginning. Give me a horse and buggy any day.

This is almost never about what we drive. It's almost always about how we drive. You can't legislate intelligence or common sense.

I have no argument with the statement " it's about how we drive, " but there are many types of drivers and some need to slow down in high traffic areas, with dangerous interchanges, to protect the excellent drivers, among us .

Had no idea railing on comment threads on comment threads would go over so poorly.

Welp, off to the bar to talk about how stupid drinking is.

Fortunately, there are witnesses from both accidents, so determination of the cause of the two accidents will certainly be determined without conjecture or speculation.

Mmmm, no seatbelts, alcohol, excessive speed? Sound like Charles Darwin at work. Keep 'em comin', guys.

There is no way to legislate an end to accidents. They are accidents. They happen in places where the speed limit is low, and they happen in places where the speed limit is higher. Every incident does not require a change to the law, whether it's a house fire, a lost dog, or a car accident.

Accepting the fact that life is uncertain, filled with risk, and ultimately temporary allows us all to pause, take a deep breath, and carry on.

Thank you Henry. That is a wise post.

It gets a bit nauseating reading the redundant posts of those collectivists that want to regulate speed.

"Speed may have been a factor in the collision...." Isn't speed always a factor? I mean, how many parked cars get in accidents? A camp counselor rolled a van down a hill with me and numerous kids years ago. The idiot was trying to scare us by getting close to the edge of the road. Speed was a factor. Five miles per hour.

At some point we cannot create enough laws and regulations to make up for the lack of gray matter between the ears of the human race. Driving is an acceptable risk. Accept it or stay home. Oh, and please stop driving in the left lane with your blinker light on at sub speed limit. Thanks!

get out of my way!!!

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people need to be alert while driving. So often i have had someone on my tail on I64, thinking what a A-hole - only to have them zip past me later and its some little old lady not even aware of what she's doing (or could do). Wake up and learn how to drive.

also - i don't see how reducing the speed through a busy area would do harm. At a minimum - reduce semi traffic.

The latest available figures for traffic accidents are from 2009-

In 2009, only about 31% of the deaths in cars were caused by speeding.

In 2009, the majority of fatals, 61% were single vehicle accidents.

In 2009, most crashes happened between 5 and 5:59 p.m. on weekdays, and between 2 and 2:59 a.m. on weekends.

If we ban driving during those hours, evidently we can cut back on traffic fatalities quite a bit- lot easier than lowering the speed limit- its only 2 hours a day- come on, lets do it!.

On top of all of that, drug deaths in the US now outnumber traffic fatalities-