Posted by: project151 | October 3, 2007

Media watch: Fatal Afton wreck on Rt. 151 @ Tanbark

*** Scroll for updates ***

WSET-TV (ABC 13) reporter Josh Farmer spoke with Project151.org founder Tommy Stafford this afternoon about last night’s deadly crash that killed Gertrude Johnson of Nellysford. The story led the 6pm newscast.

Nelson Co., VA – A single stretch of highway in Nelson County has claimed five lives in 33 days, the most recent coming Tuesday night. State workers began reviewing that section of Route 151 North of Wintergreen more than a month ago.

But, people there say things aren’t happening fast enough. You can’t really blame them. Tuesday’s wreck happened less than five miles from a crash that killed three people back in August. Tuesday night, 54-year-old Gertrude Johnson was returning from a night of BINGO at the local the fire station.

Surveillance video from a local gas station shows the response was quick. Because she was just a few hundred yards from the firehouse, responders arrived within two minutes. That wasn’t fast enough though, Johnson was already dead. Her passenger, Betty Sanford, is in fair condition.

There is a group already formed in Nelson County to raise awareness and get VDOT (website) to take a closer look at 151. “Project 151” says truck traffic is the problem, and they want 151 added to a list of seven state highways that don’t allow through traffic. A truck was not involved in last night’s wreck, but “Project 151” founder Tommy Stafford says truck traffic has an impact on the way other people drive.

Tommy Stafford, Project 151 – “It’s a safety issue. You’ve got five people that have been killed in the past five or six weeks. That’s the key issue on the front plate. But, it’s destroying the rural character. People come out here for the whole Blue Ridge experience and, you know, this is what they’re subjected to.”

Stafford and his group, Project 151, will hold a community meeting on October 10th. It’ll be at the Rockfish Valley Community Center, at 7:30pm.

More media coverage here.

UPDATE:
Alicia Petska of The News Virginian filed this story. Below is the text:

Another fatality on Virginia 151

By Alicia Petska

The News Virginian

Thursday, October 4, 2007


 

A second fatality on Virginia 151 is heightening concerns about safety along that greater corridor, which has now seen five deaths in just over a month.

Gertrude Ann Johnson, 54, of Nellysford was killed Tuesday in a head-on collision after a car in the opposite lane swerved across the double solid center line, authorities said. Johnson died at the scene, according to the Virginia State Police.

The other driver, Lloyd Wayne Puckett, 65, of Head Waters, Va., in Highland County, was taken to the University of Virginia Medical Center. A spokeswoman there said Wednesday his condition could not be released.

The crash – which occurred around 9:30 p.m. near the Route 840 intersection of the Rockfish Gap area – took place less than five miles from the site of another fatal collision that killed a woman and her two young daughters in late August.

Another fatality was reported in September, when a Faber woman who had just turned off VA-151 onto Virginia 6 drove her vehicle off the road and into a tree. It’s suspected alcohol might have played a part in that accident.

This string of deaths has fueled a growing community outcry over what Nelson County residents deem to be dangerous road conditions.

Last month, frustrated drivers formed Project 151, a citizens group advocating for change along VA-151 and VA-6, which together form a heavily traveled artery linking U.S. 29 and Interstate 64.

“This issue needs to be addressed before somebody else gets hurts,” Project 151 member Tommy Stafford said Wednesday. “Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought we’d be here talking about five people killed in, what, just 30 days.”

Project 151 has identified tougher law enforcement and a ban on through trucks among its top priorities. Both those suggestions have been raised frequently in past years, but are now gaining more government interest as residents begin pressing officials for action.

Next week, the Nelson supervisors are expected to consider formally requesting a no-through-trucks rule from the state, which controls such restrictions. Discussion of such a move had been held as early as last January, but the chance of succeeding was deemed to be slim, discouraging local leaders from taking action.

In the aftermath of the August crash, VDOT has launched its own review of the conditions along VA-151, a two- to three-month process it plans to kick off with a series of stakeholder roundtables that will bring together government officials, law enforcement and concerned citizens. A historical analysis of accident rates along the road is also under way, but wouldn’t be ready until sometime next month, said Kevin Wright, the assistant administrator who oversees Nelson County.

Another agency taking notice is the Department of Motor Vehicles, spotted two weeks ago conducting a tractor-trailer checkpoint, an occasional enforcement tool that ensures passing trucks are in good repair. Nelson has a specific turnout spot along VA-151 designated for such monitoring, but it is infrequently used.

In its efforts to continue pushing for more improvements, Project 151 will soon launch a public survey asking residents how they feel about conditions along the highway and what they think the priorities should be, with specific mention made of the through truck debate.

A public meeting on the topic has been scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Rockfish Valley Community Center.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. THIS ACCIDENT DOSNT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH SPEED OR BIG TRUCKS. THIS IS COMPLETELY DRIVER ERROR. IT’S A SAD THING TO HEAR ABOUT. BUT SPEED AND BIG TRUCKS ARE NOT A FACTOR. ACCIDENTS HAPPEN EVERY DAY OF THE 365 DAYS OF THE YEAR. I DONT FEEL THAT BIG TRUCKS ARE THAT MUST OF A FACTOR IN ALL OF THESE ACCIDENTS. I HAVE TALKED WITH MANY OF THE RESIDENTS THAT LIVE RIGHT ON 151 AND THEY SAY THE SAME. EVERYTHING IN THIS LIFE IS SO FAST PACED FOR ALOT OF PEOPLE THAT THEY DONT PAY ALOT OF ATTENTION TO WHAT THEY ARE DOING AND WHAT MIGHT BE THE OUT COME IN SOMETHING LIKE THIS. IF BIG TRUCKS ARE TAKEN OFF 151 HWY THIS WILL NOT STOP ALL THE CAR ACCIDENTS. MORE POLICE POTROL WOULD HELP. ALOT OF SAME TOWNS TAKE BOONE GOING TO MARTINSVILLE. EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT YOU WATCH WHAT YOU ARE DOING GOING THUR THERE TOWN. HOW DID THEY ACHIEVE THIS. POLICE POTROL..

    SO I AM UNDER THE IMPRESSION THAT EVERYBODY TO WHOM IS FOR THE OFF TRUCKS ON 151 FEELS THAT THIS WILL SOLVE ALL THE ACCIDENT PROBLEMS. I THINK THAT THE ISSUE SHOULD BE THOUGHT ABOUT CAREFULLY.
    I ALOT OF PEOPLE WILL FEEL ALOT FOOLISH WHEN TRUCKS ARE OFF AND CAR ACCIDENTS ARE STILL ON THE RISE. THEN WHAT ARE CARS AND TRUCKS GOING TO GET RESTRICTIONS ALSO. I DONT THINK THINGS ARE THOUGHT ABOUT ALL THE WAY SOMETIMES.

  2. Thanks Teresa for chiming in.

    We agree with your position that eliminating through trucks alone would do little. For clarity since the term “through trucks” is being thrown around lots lately, it means: those not specifically conducting business here in Nelson – i.e. gravel operations, logging operations, any size truck permitted under current law making deliveries to local businesses or homes, would not be restricted, nor would we ever endorse such a plan that would ever restrict those kinds of operations. Businesses and individuals working here in Nelson must have local trucking operations to survive and we have and always will support them!

    We are talking about trucks that have no ties to Nelson. Ones that simply cut off the interstate, sail through the county, and head elsewhere, never stopping to eat at a local restaurant, buy fuel locally, contributing nothing to the local economy.

    You are correct Teresa and statistics back your statements that semi trucks are involved in almost none of the accidents over the years. None of those in the past month.

    However, P-151 endorses removing through trucks from the 151 / 6 corridor because these roads were never designed to handle the size and intensity of traffic it does today. The semi rigs have become an impediment to the normal ebb and flow of regular passenger traffic along these highways. Throw in a school bus or two, a farm tractor, and a turkey semi truck for good measure, and the flow of traffic along the road becomes difficult at best, which indirectly contributes to accidents.

    P-151 believes that a federally designed interstate like I-64 with limited access such as on and off ramps, is the proper place for semi trucks to travel. They were made to be doing that everyday. So is U.S. 29. Routes 151 and 6 were never, never designed to do what they do today.

    Finally, though far less a consideration than the safety issue, the entire rural character of the Rockfish Valley is being destroyed by the large rigs sailing, many times speeding excessively through. P-151 has clocked many of these trucks, some tandem rigs (pulling 2 trailers – already prohibited by current law) at speeds of 70 miles an hour. You are right again Teresa, it too is an enforcement issue. It’s been allowed to continue for so long without any enforcement that it’s become an out of control situation.

    Nothing will bring back the most five recent lives that were lost. But this organization believes that once again doing nothing, as has been done in the past, is unacceptable. We are being pro active in our request to remove the through trucks before a major accident involving a gasoline tanker or semi pulling tens of thousands of pounds wipes out and takes out 100’s of square yards of homes, businesses and lives in the process.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: