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THERE is some good news on nationwide traffic fatalities--the trend continues to point downward.
The number of roadway deaths last year (32,367) was the lowest since 1949, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. There has been a 26 percent drop in fatal auto crashes since 2005.
Also good is a nearly 5 percent drop in young-driver fatalities. And fewer children were killed in car crashes last year.
Distracted driving incidents may also be slowing, according to NHTSA's findings. There was a small (1.9 percent) increase in deaths caused by distraction, but a 7 percent drop in injuries.
On the negative side, more people died in crashes involving big rigs in 2011. More bicyclists and pedestrians also were killed in auto accidents.
In Virginia, there was a slight increase (740 in 2010; 764 last year) in fatal crashes.
Dear Scott: I think that VDOT needs to re-examine the traffic patterns at the intersection of State Route 3 and Bragg Road in light of the completion of Bragg Road to four lanes and the re-timing of the Route 3 traffic lights.
Northbound Bragg Road currently has three lanes where it intersects Route 3; the far right lane is for right turns only, the center for left turns and through traffic, and the far left for left turns only. Now that the lights have been re-timed to ease rush-hour through traffic on Route 3, it frequently takes two or more light cycles to turn left on Route 3 because the vast majority of the traffic must crowd into the two left lanes while the right lane remains largely unused.
This is further exacerbated by the amount of through traffic that blocks the full use of the far-left-turn lane.
It would make more sense to make the far right lane a through/right-turn lane and keep the turn lanes as they are configured now. This would add through capacity while not significantly diminishing the right-turn capacity.
Furthermore, right-turn traffic should be encouraged to use the main Spotsylvania Towne Center exit as this has a merge lane that allows quicker traffic flow.
When the evening rush-hour light-timing cycle goes into effect, it also causes an issue on southbound Bragg Road.
When the left-turn arrow cycles on at the end of the through traffic cycle for eastbound Route 3, the right-turn arrow that allows turns from the southbound Bragg Road center lane does not stay green. Since traffic is not allowed to turn right on red from the center lane, this results in right-turn traffic unnecessarily sitting while the only traffic through the intersection does not impact the right-turn flow.
--Carl Maurice, Spotsylvania
A similar question was asked earlier this year in this column and VDOT said then that it had considered making such changes to the intersection, but in the end, the agency decided it worked best the way it is. VDOT still holds that position.
VDOT's analysis found that there is heavy right-turn lane traffic at the intersection, so opening it to through traffic could lead to backups instead of alleviating traffic there.
VDOT didn't respond to concerns about the other side of the intersection, but more than a few drivers simply ignore the no-turn-on-red sign for the inside turn lane on Bragg Road and go anyway. Maybe it would be a good idea to consider changing that lane to allow turns on red.
Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436