Deaths on Virginia's roads rose in 2011 following two years of record-setting lows. In this Safety Report, NBC29 uncovers the most dangerous spots for drivers in central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley.
We also asked the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) what it's doing to make those roads safer.
VDOT Regional Operations Manager Dean Gustafson tracks traffic crash data from Culpeper to Staunton. He said, "Every time we identify a location, we find a pattern and look for short-term and long-term solutions."
The state piloted a project in the Shenandoah Valley in 2006. The top ten list targeted the most dangerous stretches of roadway, identified safety fixes, and followed up on their success.
In Augusta County, the intersection of Routes 256 and 276 in Weyers Cave ranked the worst. VDOT added left turn lanes and the number of crashes dropped from 14 to five.
Route 250 at Eagle Rock Lane saw 11 crashes over three years. Gustafson explained, "We installed some warning signs, eventually constructed a left turn lane, and the crashes went away."
Chevron markers on Route 42 in Moscow now warn northbound drivers of the curve and cut the number of crashes in half.
New signs improved safety on Route 254 near Staunton and Waynesboro. Gustafson stated, "It's simple - a larger stop sign - and we went from 15 crashes to four."
Coordinated lights are moving traffic through a dangerous stretch of 340 in Stuarts Draft. Just three tenths of a mile long, it saw 28 crashes - including two fatalities - over three years.
"We made some of those fixes and were now in the process of evaluating those results," said Gustafson.
Right now, engineers are designing safety improvements for another top ten spot - the intersection of Route 612 and 792 in Verona, along with additional upgrades on Routes 340 and 608 in Stuarts Draft and Fishersville. VDOT is monitoring some short-term fixes put in place at 340 at New Hope Crimora Road after a double fatal crash there.
As for central Virginia, Gustafson said, "We're not nearly as far along in terms of making some of the improvements."
"We're designing a diamond interchange, reconstructing the interchange there," said Gustafson. "And that will also help to improve safety."
Congestion at the interstate interchange at Pantops puts it on the dangerous list, along with several spots along Route 29 from Polo Grounds Road to Route 33. Rio Road is on the list with 36 crashes at Northfield and 40 at Berkmar.
Gustafson stated, "We want to take a look at the intersection itself and make sure there's enough room for people to see the signal heads, how the pedestrians are moving."
Five fatal crashes over five years has VDOT drawing up plans to improve safety along the entire stretch of 250 from Afton Mountain to Charlottesville including the intersection with 240 in Crozet.
"We feel like a roundabout may help it out to slow folks down a little bit going through there," said Gustafson.
The top ten list is a moving target. "We're going to come back in 2 years and take another look at the crash data, see what's changed, see what's new and different, other locations may pop up," stated Gustafson. "Some of these may get resolved and we'll keep on moving down the list."
But VDOT reminds us that safety on the roads starts behind the wheel. Gustafson said, "The driver is still the single most important factor in improving highway safety."