After Route 15 crash, VDOT plans safety review of area

Published 12:50 am Wednesday, June 5, 2024

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The goal here is to cut down on the number of traffic accidents happening in Buckingham County. No one can deny that’s been a problem, one that often comes with deadly consequences. In the wake of yet another accident, this time on Route 15, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is taking a look to see what changes can be made. 

“After any crash such as the one on Route 15, we will conduct a review of the area,” said Len Stevens. He works as public relations manager for VDOT’s Lynchburg district, which includes Buckingham. 

In a situation like this, Stevens said, everything gets looked at. 

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“We will look at the roadway, signage, road marking, line of sight, and make a determination as to whether changes can make the area safer and easier to navigate,” Stevens said. 

A review has started into the accident from Tuesday, May 28. Stevens said as of June 3, that review hadn’t finished. 

This review doesn’t just take into account road conditions. Stevens said it also pulls in the report from state police and any other documentation that can confirm the cause of the accident in question. Once the cause is isolated, that’ll help VDOT better understand what changes are needed. 

Reflecting on Route 15 crash

The most recent incident we’re referring to on Route 15 involves a three-vehicle crash on May 28. A 2012 Ford Fusion was traveling southbound on Route 15, near the intersection with Route 781, when the vehicle suddenly crossed the centerline. The Fusion then hit a 2022 Ford T350 traveling north on Route 15.

The Fusion then continued traveling the wrong way in the northbound lane of Route 15. It collided head-on with a 2021 Nissan Versa, with the impact of the crash causing the Versa to run off the road and overturn.

Both the driver of the Fusion, 77-year-old Erika Henshaw of Dillwyn and the passenger, 85-year-old Alvin P. Henshaw, died at the scene. The driver of the Versa, 66-year-old Runping Rhett of Alton and the passenger, 37-year-old Eric D. Truscott, also died at the scene. The driver of the Ford T350 was not injured.

Work continues on Route 60 

If you go back through the reports over the last few years, there’s been a number of accidents on Route 15, with VDOT officials already eyeing things like trimming back brush in order to improve sight lines, before the full review is even finished. Still, even with the number of wrecks on Route 15, it comes in second as a problem area in Buckingham to Route 60. 

At their May meeting, VDOT engineer Scott Frederick promised Buckingham supervisors he planned to ‘throwing the kitchen sink’ at Route 60, to improve the situation.
The numbers keep going up. Year to year, no matter what traffic study gets done, the amount of accidents at the intersection of Route 60 and Route 632 in Buckingham County continues to rise. The latest example in May involved a Longwood student who had to be airlifted to get her injuries treated. 

In 2022, Buckingham supervisors first got the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to do a study. That year, the number of crashes at the intersection went up. The board asked for another review of the site in 2023 and VDOT put up a sign leading to the intersection. Even so, the number of crashes went up again.

When VDOT put up that sign last year, Frederick said, they thought it would have an impact on reducing crashes. And, he said, it looks like as long as people paid attention to the sign, they were ok. One of the crashes last year was a resident who admitted to being distracted. Another was a teen driver, not focused on the road.

Time to try everything

And so, it’s time to basically try everything. The first step, which is happening now, involves obtaining easements. In other words, getting permission to use the strips on land on the side of the road leading up to the intersection. We’re not talking about permission from county supervisors. This just involves having conversations with property owners, some of whom may not even realize they own that strip of land. VDOT needs their permission before putting up signs or doing significant tree trimming. 

Once that’s done, VDOT plans to clear cut the right shoulder on both approaches to Route 60. The goal here, Frederick said, is for people to never have to worry about tree branches blocking the view again.

Step two, there will be stop signs at all approaches and they will be oversize, a 48 x 48 design. Those signs will also be moved closer to the shoulder of Route 632.

Step three, VDOT will add transverse rumble strips on each approach.

If it’s found to be needed, a similar approach could be used on the Route 15 intersection.