HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – Deadly car crashes are way up in Hampton Roads – reaching historic levels in 2021.

A recent study by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission shows that a record 179 people died in crashes on local roads in 2021, and fatalities are up 81% over a decade. That number exceeds increases seen across Virginia and the United States.

Keith Nichols, the principal transportation engineer at HRPDC, said speed is the biggest factor in fatal crashes. Drivers sped more during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they haven’t slowed down.

“How people are behaving post-pandemic is leading to more speeding, but also during the pandemic traffic volumes and congestion levels greatly decreased, so the roads became much more wide-open,” Nichols said. “People had more of an opportunity to speed.”

Traffic engineers can’t control human behavior, but they improve the roads. Nichols and his team are analyzing more than 1,000 intersections across the region to determine where the most serious crashes are happening and why. Come fall, he hopes to have recommendations to improve road safety.

10 On Your Side’s investigative team analyzed regional crash data for accidents that happened between 2017 and 2021. We found that there were more than 24,000 crashes across the seven cities during that time, and more than 31% of them happened on roads in Virginia Beach. More than 1,300 of those crashes led to serious injuries or deaths, with nearly 30% of those happening in Hampton.

There were more than 1,600 crashes at intersections on Mercury Boulevard in Hampton, and 134 of those killed or seriously injured people. In Newport News, there were nearly 1,500 crashes at intersections along Jefferson Avenue. Seventy of those were deadly or caused serious injuries.

In Virginia Beach, the intersections at Indian River Road and Kempsville Road and First Colonial Road and Virginia Beach Boulevard each had more than 150 crashes. In Portsmouth, there were 142 crashes at the intersection at George Washington Highway and Victory Boulevard.

The intersection at Northampton Boulevard and Wesleyan Drive in Norfolk had 106 crashes, and Tidewater Drive at Lafayette Boulevard had 102. In Suffolk, there were 104 crashes at the intersection of Bridge Road and College Drive.