The Virginia legislature has passed the bill HB 1705, which focuses on improving safety for pedestrians and requires motorists to stop and yield the right of way to them.

This amendment to § 46.2-924 of the Code of Virginia explains the responsibilities of automobile drivers to halt and yield to pedestrians at:

(a) marked crosswalks, which could be the edge of a block or at midblock.

(b) regular pedestrian crossings that are a part of the extended perimeter of the adjoining sidewalk at the edge of a block.

(c) a junction when the motorist is approaching a road with a speed limit of up to 35 mph.

The amendment bill also forbids the drivers of other vehicles that are driving behind these types of stopped cars or from an adjoining lane from passing and overtaking the stopped car.

Definition of a Pedestrian in Virginia

Under Virginia laws, a ‘pedestrian’ is any person who travels on foot. But broadly speaking, a pedestrian can mean any individual not using a motorized mode of transport. A person on roller skates, a skateboard, or even an electric scooter fits this category. Based on this definition, it would not be wrong to classify a bicyclist as a pedestrian. But, under the law, individuals on foot do enjoy the right of way over cyclists.

Knowing a Pedestrian’s Right of Way

Virginia laws clearly define many situations where pedestrians have the right of way over motorized vehicles. Under Va. Code § 46.2-924, drivers must yield to any pedestrian that is crossing a public street or highway (as described in the initial part of this article).

Pedestrians enjoy an unhindered right of way on the sidewalks. A pedestrian must use a sidewalk if it is available. In the absence of a sidewalk, the pedestrian must use the extreme left side to walk on the road. Pedestrians should also take care to avoid getting distracted while they are walking on the road. These basic good practices can increase pedestrian safety.

If a pedestrian is crossing an intersection at the same time as a motor vehicle driver enters or turns into it, the pedestrian has the right of way. The driver must slow down, stop, or change the course to let a pedestrian cross safely. Apart from this, a motor vehicle driver needs to yield to a pedestrian if directed to do so by a law enforcement officer or a traffic control device. 

Knowing a Motorist’s Right of Way

Under Virginia laws, motorists also have certain rights to ensure that they can drive their vehicles without pedestrian interference. Pedestrians cannot rush out in the direct line of an oncoming vehicle or dart out into a road filled with approaching vehicles.

Pedestrians can cross a road in the absence of a marked or unmarked crosswalk, but the right of way on the road belongs to the motorists. Simply put, in the face of approaching vehicles, a pedestrian needs to wait at the curb and allow the vehicles to pass before making a cautious attempt to cross the road.

The pedestrians must avoid stepping onto a road when it is hard for a moving vehicle to easily spot them due to the presence of moving traffic and other objects. However, the law allows them to step onto the road to board another vehicle or a bus.

Pedestrians must adhere to the road signs, even when they use a crosswalk to cross the street. In short, the drivers in general have the right of way on the roads, and pedestrians must follow the signals and crosswalks to cross the streets.

Liability in a Crash Involving a Motorist and a Pedestrian

The matter of liability, when a motorist hits a pedestrian, is not an obvious one. People might assume that a motorist is liable in such cases, but quite often, the fault lies with the pedestrian to a large extent.

An altered interpretation of contributory negligence applies to such accidents in most of the states. In this, a victim can claim damages despite being partly at fault. However, Virginia follows the contributory negligence rule in its pure form.

Under the Virginia rule, victims are not eligible to recover any damages if they are at fault for a crash. It does not matter how minor or insignificant that fault is. Motorists obviously use this rule to avoid paying any damages. This makes it even more important for an injured pedestrian to engage with a Virginia personal injury attorney, to understand and protect their rights. 

Talk to a Virginia Pedestrian Accident Attorney

Understanding the process and knowing your rights is very important if you or someone you love, has been a pedestrian injury victim. We at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp are committed to pursuing all legal options on your behalf. Our expert, empathetic, and reliable attorneys will help you recover maximum compensation. Call us at (833) 997-1774 to schedule a free consultation today.