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Empty roads inspiring triple-digit speeds

It appears that in the era of COVID-19, when fewer drivers are on the roads, those who do travel may be viewing less-crowded highways as an opportunity for excessive speeding, with law enforcement officers across the state and even in Prince Edward County clocking triple-digit speeds that threaten the lives of motorists sharing the roadways.

In a release distributed Friday, May 22, Virginia State Police (VSP) officials warned drivers to be cautious if choosing to travel Memorial Day Weekend, highlighting the dangers officers saw during Stay-at-Home Orders.

“Because of the lighter traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic, state police troopers have witnessed an alarming uptick in the number of excessive speed violations,” VSP Superintendent Colonel Gary T. Settle said. “As a result, troopers will be stepping up their presence and enforcement during the holiday weekend in an effort to increase motorists’ compliance of traffic laws and decrease the reckless speeds and aggressive driving.”

That concern was echoed Friday by Prince Edward Sheriff L.A. “Tony” Epps, who said during the pandemic the sheriff’s office had issued a number of speeding and/or reckless driving summons for speeds over 80 mph, with the highest speeding summons issued for a driver travelling 130 mph.

Epps added some of those tickets were issued on two-lane roads in Prince Edward.

“Triple-digit speeds put everyone on the road at risk,” said Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “We are constantly reminded in these times to make safety a priority. Complying with speed limits, buckling up and not driving distracted or impaired are just as important to one’s health as wearing a mask and social distancing.”

The problem of lead-footed drivers during lockdown hasn’t just been an issue found in rural areas.

Last month, California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers said they were having to issue an alarming number of tickets for drivers speeding at more than 100 mph.

According to The Los Angeles Times, CHP claimed to have issued 2,439 tickets from March 19 to April 19 to speeders reaching triple-digit speeds, an 87% increase from the year prior.

One California driver was even arrested and charged with speeding, reckless driving and driving without a license after being clocked in his Chevrolet Camaro traveling 165 mph.

Back in Prince Edward, Epps said while officers aren’t writing as many summons since the pandemic began, the law is still being enforced. Epps also said the sheriff’s office has noticed an increase in calls for service, especially during the evening, and as a result has had to put extra deputies on evening shifts to help check businesses and answer calls.

Cumberland County Sheriff Darrell Hodges said Cumberland’s officers had not experienced as much of an increase in excessive speeding violations as experienced in Prince Edward. He said deputies had not seen a large increase or decrease in call volume compared to last year.

In Buckingham County, Sheriff Bill Kidd said the effects of the pandemic had dropped Buckingham’s number of overall speeding tickets issued in recent months. He added that local and state officers in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the virus had been limiting traffic stops to incidents of serious public safety concern, such as excessive speeding, D.U.I.s and recklessness, which he felt may have been the reason why some Virginians have been electing to “push the envelope.”

“Our troopers have not only seen an uptick in more extreme speeding by motorists on the interstates, but also on highways like Route 360 and Route 460 as they have been less crowded during the stay-at-home directives,” VSP Public Relations Director Corinne Geller said Friday. “Virginia State Police continues to have a visible presence within our communities and on the roads for the safety of those living, working and traveling through Virginia. We also remind drivers that an open road is not an open invitation to speed. State police troopers across Virginia are still actively enforcing posted speed limits.”