A 71-year-old woman died after a driver struck her as she attempted to cross a major road in Northern Virginia. Fairfax County, VA, police did not immediately charge the driver with causing the fatal pedestrian crash, but the tragic incident does illustrate a disturbing trend in which people who walk are facing increasing dangers in all locations.
The deadly wreck happened at the intersection of Reston Parkway and Bluemont Way in Reston at around 11 am on May 21, 2018. The woman who lost her life was crossing Reston Parkway, and the driver remained on the scene to speak with law enforcement officials.
The intersection is marked with crosswalks and controlled by stoplights in all directions. As spelled out in section 46.2-924 of the Virginia code, this would give the pedestrian right of way in most situations. The first two paragraphs of the statute read,
A. The driver of any vehicle on a highway shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian crossing such highway:
1. At any clearly marked crosswalk, whether at mid-block or at the end of any block;
2. At any regular pedestrian crossing included in the prolongation of the lateral boundary lines of the adjacent sidewalk at the end of a block;
3. At any intersection when the driver is approaching on a highway or street where the legal maximum speed does not exceed 35 miles per hour.
B. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection A, at intersections or crosswalks where the movement of traffic is being regulated by law-enforcement officers or traffic control devices, the driver shall yield according to the direction of the law-enforcement officer or device.
Ignoring pedestrians’ right of way leads to multiple deaths and disabling injuries all across the United States each day. And the problem is getting worse. Early in 2018, the Governors Highway Safety Association released statistics that document a 25 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities from 2014 through 2016. The researchers pointed to distraction by smartphones and GPS devices as a leading contributor to this increase.
In an earlier report, 2015’s Everyone Walks. Understanding & Addressing Pedestrian Safety, the GHSA noted that
Speed also plays a role in pedestrian-motor vehicle crashes and increases the injury potential exponentially. The average risk of a pedestrian being seriously injured is 10 percent at an impact speed of 17 mph, 25 percent at 25 mph, 50 percent at 33 mph, 75 percent at 41 mph, and 90 percent at 48 mph. Since many pedestrian fatalities occur in urban areas with lower speed limits (average speeds range from 20-35 mph), ensuring that drivers comply with posted speed limits has the potential to positively impact pedestrian safety. In 2013, nearly one in five pedestrian fatalities occurred on roadways where the posted speed limit was less than 35 mph; 28 percent occurred where the limit was 35 to 40 mph.
Speeding is just one of the explanations Fairfax County police are considering for this deadly pedestrian crash in Reston. Whatever they find, my Virginia wrongful death attorney colleagues and I urge all drivers everywhere to watch for and respect the right of way of pedestrians.