An off-duty sheriff’s deputy hit and killed a pedestrian in Rowan County, North Carolina (NC), on the night of March 28, 2017. The fatal crash happened near the intersection of Rowan Mill Road and Foxfire Drive just after 10 pm.
State Highway Patrol officers are investigating the deadly wreck. The driver told investigators he never saw the pedestrian and did not know he had struck and fatally injured a person until he stopped and got out of his vehicle because he felt an impact. He did administer first-aid when he found the pedestrian beside the two-lane rural state highway, but the injured man died at the hospital.
No details on why the driver collided with the pedestrian have been made public, and it is unclear whether any charges will be filed. State law requires drivers to yield right of way to pedestrians who are crossing the street at well-marked intersections and to pass pedestrians walking along a highway shoulder with adequate space.
If the driver failed to meet his duties under law to protect a pedestrian, crash investigators will also need to determine why. News of this tragedy in Rowan County, NC, comes the same week that the Governors Highway Safety Association reported a spike in pedestrian deaths during 2016. Of the estimated 40,200 traffic deaths in the United States last year, 5,997 involved individuals crossing streets, using sidewalks or standing on highway shoulders and medians. Researchers attributed the increase from 5,379 fatalities in 2015 and 4,910 in 2014 to more driving linked to greater employment and cheaper gas, more walking for exercise and ever-increasing distraction by smartphones, tablets and GPS devices.
Other factors that might have played a role in causing the deadly pedestrian crash on Rowan Mill Road outside of Salisbury are driver fatigue and poor visibility. The incident happened late at night and in an area that has only a single streetlamp. Giving these explanations would not necessarily excuse the driver from criminal liability or the responsibility to make insurance settlements. A driver’s legal duties to watch for and yield to pedestrians are very high. If the driver in this crash failed to meet them, he should be held accountable. The family of the victim should be able to file claims against the driver’s personal insurance because even though he was driving a police cruiser, he was not on duty.