Reports of a crash in Norfolk, Virginia (VA), that killed a pedestrian leave many questions unanswered. In addition to not identifying the person who lost their life, police released no information on how the crash happened. The broader issue of how the road where the crash happened could be made safer for pedestrians also comes to mind.
According to multiple news outlets, a woman walking in the 500 block of N. Military Highway died after an automobile struck her at around 9 pm on May 15, 2022. The woman succumbed to her injuries before police and EMTs could transport her from the scene for treatment.
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Authorities released no other information on the crash, declining to state even what type of vehicle hit the woman. My Virginia Beach wrongful death law firm colleagues and I send our deepest condolences out to the friends and family members of the pedestrian.
A Tragedy Waiting to Happen?
A look at a map of the area near Military Circle Mall and close to the intersection of Military Highway and Poplar Hall Drive shows numerous shops, restaurants and a hotel. Notably, no sidewalks line the busy highway, where the posted speed limit is 40 mph.
Drivers can expect to encounter pedestrians as they pass through this heavily commercialized section of Norfolk. Yet, a person on foot has few options other than walking along the curb, practically in the path of oncoming vehicles.
Virginia law makes provisions for this situation. According to section 46.2-928 of the state code,
Pedestrians shall not use the roadways for travel, except when necessary to do so because of the absence of sidewalks which are reasonably suitable and passable for their use. If they walk on the hard surface, or the main travelled portion of the roadway, they shall keep to the extreme left side or edge thereof, or where the shoulders of the highway are of sufficient width to permit, they may walk on either shoulder thereof.
Though the statute does not say it, drivers have a duty to look out for pedestrians who use “the hard surface, or the main travelled portion of the roadway.” Failing to do so, and failing to slow down, move over or even stop for a pedestrian can result in an avoidable death.
For pedestrians who have no choice but to walk on the road because sidewalks do not exist, federal safety officials recommend facing into oncoming traffic. Of course, well-maintained sidewalks that separate vehicles and pedestrians provide the most safety.
Whether family members of the of the woman who died have grounds for filing wrongful death claims will depend on what investigators determine about why the crash occurred. Questions that require answers include whether the driver acted negligently and whether the pedestrian kept close to the curb.
While police prepare their report, family members can protect their legal rights by consulting with a caring and experienced attorney.