Deadly highway: 7 fatalities prompt billboard warning

news-sign-seatbeltThe northbound lane of U.S. 29 south tries to capture motorists' attention.

The billboard may not win a Clio. But all Albemarle County Police really want is to stop the carnage on U.S. 29 south of Charlottesville.

Unlike its more heavily traveled counterpart north of town, the southern Monacan Trail end of U.S. 29 is usually a pretty easy, uncongested drive. So when the 2009 death toll between I-64 and the Nelson County line reached seven by October, Albemarle County Police looked for a way to slam the brakes on those grim statistics.

"It's a disturbing trend," says Lieutenant Todd Hopwood, who noted December 17 that there were no fatalities on 29 South the previous four years. Yet during the last week of October, two accidents took three lives in a couple days, and within a quarter-mile of each other. One was activist farmer Kathryn Russell, who was struck crossing 29 at Plank Road October 22 and thrown from her truck.

Why the sudden spate of deaths? Police found two things in common: five of the seven were not wearing seatbelts, and five were from out of town.

In a multi-agency effort, Albemarle police have stepped up patrols and added  rumble strips and a radar-equipped, your-speed-is sign.

AAA of the Mid-Atlantic sprang for the $1,500 billboard near Crossroads Store that warns of the strict enforcement. The billboard went up December 7 for the holidays and will go up again in the spring, says AAA's Windy VanCuren.

The buckle-up warnings have been repeated a million times before, but with seven deaths in a short stretch of road and short period of time, VanCuren hopes the message sinks in: "Most of these could have been avoided."

Read more on: fatalityseatbeltu.s. 29


29 S isn't that bad. If people wouldn't drive like idiots (excess speed, weaving, not paying attention to the surroundings, stupid stuff like that) there wouldn't be as many issues. You don't need to be going 65 MPH down that road.

Who doesn't wear a seatbelt these days?

and while that billboard has my attention i slam into a deer!

I have a problem if you dont want to wear your seat belt then it is on you why is the police so worry about you that just give them reasons to pull people over!!!!! I known people that had seat belts on and still died so what is ya'll point dont have nothing better to do but harrass people Virginia please follow ya'll own law n stop trying to make up new ones all the time

Too many hills, blind curves, and uncontrolled access coupled with heavy truck traffic are a recipe for disaster. VDOT needs to bring this stretch of highway up to at least 1975 standards. They managed to build a nice safe road around Lynchburg, why not around Charlottesville? VDOT has put in some mighty nice roads for other cities like Lynchburg, Blacksburg/Christiansburg, & Roanoke, but they have refused to do anything up here for decades. Where is the outcry? Where are they spending our share of the transportation budget?

The problem is people driving like a bunch of idiots. Anybody who can't drive 45 to 55 mph on 29 South without running off the road or runing into somebody else has no business with a driver's license in the first place.

Comment deleted by administrator 2pm December 22.

The state just needs to reduce the speed limit. There is no need to litter our roads with blinking lights, distracting signs, speed bumps,and other driver distractions. There is also no need to be going 65 down 29 through Albemarle County. Just reduce the speed limit. The curves and hills make it difficult for those crossing 29. If there was just more time from the point a crossing vehicle identifies a clear passage, the crossing vehicle would be safer. The way it is now, you see a clear passage, start on the gas, and HELLO, someone comes flying up the hill and nearly hits you. But it's ok(sarcasm), because the speed limit is 60 (which means they can go 65), and if you are smart and wear a seatbelt, you may actually survive the collision. Please, VDOT, just reduce the speed limit.

yeah grammar lady!!

That's a lot of lives lost. Why is it the fault of no seatbelts? I think they need to look at the intersections and the design of the road. There is evidentally a problem there. The deaths by no seatbelts were the symptom, not the problem.