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Why Don’t Drivers See and Yield to Pedestrians?

A driver has been charged with reckless driving after hitting and seriously injuring a pedestrian in a rural housing community in central Virginia. The crash happened a little after 7 am on May 24, 2018, and the at-fault driver told police that she never saw the woman she struck.



The victim was walking with a friend along Shannon Mill Drive in the Caroline Pines area of Ruther Glen, VA. The narrow two-lane road in Caroline County has no sidewalks and multiple sharp curves. In such a setting, drivers must control their speed to avoid running onto the shoulder. Also, since the road cuts through a neighborhood, drivers should watch for pedestrians and bike riders, especially in the morning when children will be walking to bus stops and adults will be exercising before going to work.

The reckless driving charge filed against the driver who hit the woman on Shannon Mill Drive could mean police determined that she was driving too fast or that she drove without exercising sufficient care for protecting the health and safety of other people. Either circumstance would endanger pedestrians who were walking along a road that already provided few physical safeguards.

The driver’s explanation that she did not see the pedestrian may well be true, but it will not excuse her from a conviction on the traffic violation or relieve her of responsibility for settling personal injury insurance claims. Researchers have studied why so many drivers give the same reason for injuring, and sometimes killing, pedestrians and concluded that acting more cautiously and paying more attention can prevent most pedestrian crashes.

Drivers tend to look directly ahead most of the time. They need to perform visual scans that show them both shoulders, the median, and the rearview and side mirror views.

Drivers tend to focus on other vehicles. They need to remind themselves that pedestrians and bicyclists also share the road.

Drivers tend to travel at 5-10 mph over the posted speed limit. They need to slow down to give themselves more time to spot and yield to pedestrians. This is particularly important because pedestrians approaching from the side become more difficult for drivers to spot as the linear distance between a vehicle and a person on foot decreases.

Last, drivers increasingly allow themselves to get distracted by phones, GPS devices, and in-car entertainment options. As my Virginia personal injury law firm colleagues know too well, anything that takes a driver’s eyes and mind off the road ahead greatly increases the chances for a serious wreck. In fact, from 2007 to 2016, the same period that smartphones became ubiquitous, the number of pedestrian fatalities on U.S. roads and highways increased 27 percent.


Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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