While people crossing streets on foot always face risks from drivers, Friday and Saturday, October 20-21, 2017, were particularly unsafe for pedestrians in Hampton Roads. Three separate collisions sent three people to hospital with injuries ranging from serious to life-threatening.
The earliest of the reported pedestrian crashes happened at the intersection of 45th Street and Jefferson Avenue in Newport News at 9:48 am Friday morning. Few details were released to reporters about the wreck in the area where the state highway identified as VA 143 cuts through several residential neighborhoods.
Thirteen hours later, a vehicle struck a woman in the 1000 block of London Boulevard in Portsmouth. The pedestrian, who may have been crossing from a hotel to a shopping center, was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Then, at around 8 on Saturday night, a man suffered serious injuries when he was hit in the 400 block of Carolina Road in Suffolk. The site of that collision is a mix of car dealerships, gas stations, and private houses.
Thumbnail descriptions of the pedestrian crash locations illustrate how individuals on foot can never fully avoid dangers from cars, trucks and other vehicles. And while none of the crash sites feature crosswalks, each of the pedestrians sent to hospitals may have had the right of way. Virginia laws give drivers a legal duty to yield to pedestrians who cross streets at well-defined intersections and in any place where the posted speed limit is lower than 35 mph.
Both of the walkers in Newport News and Portsmouth had natural crossing locations at intersections where sidewalks start and stop at the entrances to side streets. The length of Carolina Road in Suffolk where the pedestrian got hit has a speed limit of 25 mph.
Drivers must watch for pedestrians in all locations at all times. The nonprofit group Sharing the Road in Virginia offers these tips for meeting that legal duty:
- Approach and pass bicyclists at a reasonable speed
- Allow at least two feet, preferably three feet or more at higher speeds between you and bicyclists when passing
- Yield to pedestrians and bicyclists in a crosswalk
- When turning, yield to pedestrians and bicyclists
- Permit pedestrians to cross roads safely
- Come to a full stop for a blind pedestrian with a cane or guide dog
As Virginia personal injury lawyers with offices in all seven Hampton Roads cities, my law firm colleagues and I have helped many pedestrians who were harmed by negligent drivers. Some of the drivers who struck and injured pedestrians were speeding, some were drunk, and many were distracted. Whatever explanations exist for the recent pedestrian crashes in Newport News, Portsmouth and Suffolk, if the drivers were at fault, the injured walkers should work with an experienced attorney to file insurance claims and hold the drivers financially accountable.