Two crashes during the third week of April 2021 saw residents of Norfolk and Chesapeake join a sad trend toward growing numbers of pedestrian deaths in Virginia and across the United States. On April 20, a driver struck and killed a 6-year-old girl in the 3800 block of Larkin Street in Norfolk’s Coleman Place neighborhood.
Five days later, a Chesapeake man died after being hit struck by a vehicle on Gum Road at the intersection with Portsmouth Boulevard. The deadly incidents have little in common beyond both happening in the evening.
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The Norfolk crash happened on a narrow residential street lined by detached single-family houses. The Chesapeake crash happened at a busy highway intersection marked with crosswalks and controlled by stop lights in all directions. Only the outcomes for the walkers were the same—and tragic.
Pedestrian Deaths Are Happening More Frequently
Police released few details about either of these recent fatal pedestrian crashes. What is clear, however, is that Virginia roads have never been completely safe for walkers. During 2019, the last year for which the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles has complete data, 124 people died while crossing streets, standing on curbs and shoulders, and using sidewalks. These wrecks accounted for 15 percent of all traffic fatalities.
Drivers also injured 1,575 pedestrians during 2019. DMV officials categorized 432 of those cases as serious injuries, meaning that the injured pedestrian required hospitalization.
The carnage continued into the first half of 2020 even as daily commutes, running errands and taking pleasure trips decreased. The Governors Highway Safety Association determined “the rate at which drivers struck and killed walkers ‘jumped a significant and unsettling’ amount in the first six months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.” This summary appears in a Forbes article which also points to increases in “speeding, distracted and impaired driving, and other dangerous driving behaviors” as traffic backups cleared, the COVID-19 took hold and risk-taking behind the seemed to become more common.
We cannot know from what has been reported about the pedestrians’ deaths whether the drivers involved acted negligently or recklessly. Still, we can point to the deadly crashes as examples of the terrible, irreversible outcome of drivers and pedestrians failing to share the road safely.
Drivers must constantly scan for and be prepared to stop for pedestrians, especially young children on neighborhood streets. Older children and adults must respect motorists’ right of way, cross at corners and crosswalks, and keep a watch themselves for speeding and out of control vehicles.