A collision at a busy intersection in the Madison Heights community of Amherst County, Virginia (VA), led to the death of an 83-year-old driver and to charges against the at-fault 17-year-old driver. An innocent passenger also suffered injuries that required hospital treatment in the deadly crash at U.S. Route 29 Business and VA Route 130 a little before 12:30 pm on August 21, 2017.
According to Virginia State Police, the teen driver of a Nissan Xterra attempted to turn left onto the portion of VA Route 130 known locally as Elon Road when he cut off the driver of a Chrysler Sebring who was traveling north on U.S. Route 29/South Amherst Highway. The man behind the wheel of the Chrysler was taken by ambulance to Lynchburg General Hospital, where he died from his injuries. The deceased driver’s passenger survived with injuries characterized as minor.
The teen driver was unhurt. Troopers have charged him with failure to yield right of way, and other charges for causing a death may follow. Section 46.2-825 of the Virginia Code states
The driver of a vehicle, intending to turn left within an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction if it is so close as to constitute a hazard. At intersections controlled by traffic lights with separate left-turn signals, any vehicle making a left turn when so indicated by the signal shall have the right-of-way over all other vehicles approaching the intersection.
The Madison Heights intersection where this deadly left-turn collision happened is controlled by stoplights in all directions. The teen driver most likely had a green light rather than a turn arrow, indicting he had to wait for all oncoming vehicles to clear the way before he started to turn.
Younger drivers are particularly prone to making errors in judgment like that one that appears to have caused this tragedy in Amherst County. As shown by research summarized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two of the principal risk factors for wrecks involving teenagers are overconfidence and poor recognition of other vehicles’ distance and speed. As explained by the CDC
- Teens are more likely than older drivers to underestimate dangerous situations or not be able to recognize hazardous situations. Teens are also more likely than adults to make critical decision errors that lead to serious crashes.
- Teens are more likely than older drivers to speed and allow shorter headways (the distance from the front of one vehicle to the front of the next). The presence of male teenage passengers increases the likelihood of this risky driving behavior.
My Virginia wrongful death attorney colleagues and I send our condolences out to the friends and family of the man who lost his life in this left-turn crash on U.S. Route 29. We also hope the injured passenger recovers quickly and completely.