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Report: pedestrian deaths on the rise in Virginia

Pedestrian safety requires the buy-in of both drivers and pedestrians. If one group isn’t respecting Virginia’s pedestrian laws, then someone is in danger. Most likely the threatened group is the pedestrian because they don’t have tons of protective steel surrounding them.

A troubling trend has emerged over the last few years. From 2015 to 2018, pedestrian fatalities have risen from approximately 75 per year up to 150. The Virginia Department of Transportation says increasing crosswalk and signage visibility are two things the government seeks to improve in effort of bucking this trend. The possibility of improved traffic controls to give drivers more notice of potential pedestrians.

These efforts to enhance pedestrian safety have the potential to be effective, but Virginia already has laws that define when a driver or pedestrian has the right of way. If you’re unclear on who has right of way and when, here is a refresher:

Pedestrians have the right of way:

  • At any clearly marked crosswalk and at any intersection where the speed limit on the approaching streets is under 35 miles per hour.
  • At crossings if a traffic control officer or light permits.
  • Crossing highway intersections where vehicles are turning across the highway.
  • When the presence of construction signs at marked crosswalks states pedestrians have the right of way.

Drivers have the right of way:

  • When a traffic control light or traffic control officer allows.
  • At an intersection with clearly-marked crosswalks where there are no traffic control lights.

It’s important to remember that although the law restricts pedestrians from entering a roadway regardless of the traffic, vehicles must yield to them anyway. Foot traffic should only cross roadways and intersections at designated places like crosswalks.

Pedestrians and drivers must work together to reduce fatalities. Drivers should brake, stop or safely steer away from pedestrians whenever possible. Pedestrians can do their part by crossing only when they have the right of way at appropriate places like marked crosswalks. Both groups should consistently look out for the other before crossing an intersection.

This isn’t just what a study says, it’s the law. We can reduce pedestrian fatalities in 2019 together.

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