Eight serious collisions in crosswalks at stoplight-controlled intersections in a three-month period prompted law enforcement officials in Winchester, Virginia (VA), on December 13, 2016, to issue an urgent safety reminder to drivers. All of the pedestrian crashes resulted in injuries or deaths, leading the city's commonwealth's attorney to tell drivers that their legal duty is to yield right of way to walkers. “You're supposed to yield, whether the crosswalk is lit up or not lit up, or if it's at an intersection or not," he told television station WHAG.
Criminal charges or traffic citations have been issued in five recent pedestrian crashes. Police confirmed that the majority of incidents have resulted from drivers failing to look out for people on foot when turning left onto main roads. In most such situations, the pedestrian had the same green light or right of way as the person behind the wheel. Driver distraction and speeding have also been identified as causes of some of the wrecks.
One of the most serious pedestrian-car crashes in Winchester happened at the intersection of Valley Avenue and Brookfield Drive on November 18. The driver who hit and killed the 83-year-old pedestrian in that incident now faces a vehicular manslaughter charge. This shows that drivers who harm people who follow the rules for safely crossing a street -- staying in a crosswalk and waiting for a greenlight or walk signal -- can be held accountable in criminal court. Personal injury and wrongful death insurance claims or civil lawsuits can also compel negligent or reckless drivers to pay compensation for their harmful actions.
Neither of those, however, spares pedestrians pain and suffering or preserves lives. Drivers can prevent many pedestrian crashes by exercising more caution and patience at intersections, especially those marked with crosswalks. My Virginia personal injury law firm colleagues and I support all efforts to spread this essential message.