A 71-year-old pedestrian was hit and killed in the Hollins area of Roanoke County, Virginia (VA), a little before 1 am on April 28, 2017. One news report described the setting for the fatal crash in the 8100 block of Williamson Road as “very foggy, dark, no street lamps, no sidewalk, and it’s a 45 speed limit.”
Shortly after police responded to a passerby’s report of an injured person beside the road that is also known as U.S. 11 and Lee Highway, the man who appeared to be at-fault returned. That 22-year-old driver failed a series of field sobriety tests, and police have charged him with felony hit and run, driving under the influence and manslaughter. Additional charges may follow completion of the investigation.
According to the deceased pedestrian’s wife, the elderly man had voluntarily checked himself out a nearby hospital where he was undergoing health tests. Considering the weather, road and pedestrian’s conditions, all drivers would have had an extra duty to watch for and take actions to avoid striking the man as he walked along the highway.
Driving while drunk or while under the influence of drugs makes keeping a proper lookout for pedestrians difficult. In fact, a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration analysis found that in 2014, “an estimated 14 percent of fatal pedestrian crashes had drivers with BACs of .08 g/dL or higher.” With 4,884 pedestrians dying in wrecks across the United States that year, drunk or drugged drivers accounted for 684 deaths to pedestrians.
Driving under the influence also makes people prone to fleeing the scene of a crash. A research study quoted in an FBI whitepaper titled Evidence-Based Decisions on Police Pursuits: The Officers’ Perspective revealed that 21 percent of drivers who fled admitted to a DUI offense. The other most common explanations for leading a chase or causing a hit and run collision were driving a stolen car, operating with a suspended license and fearing arrest.
As a Virginia wrongful death attorney who has held both drunk drivers and drivers who harmed pedestrians accountable to their victims in civil court, I am glad the man who caused the Roanoke pedestrian’s death is in police custody. Leaving the scene of a serious or deadly wreck should not allow anyone to escape responsibility.