A perfect storm is upon those in Virginia and elsewhere who enjoy walking or rely on it for transportation. With the end of daylight saving time and the last weeks of temperate weather, you and your loved ones may be out walking among traffic more than usual. Unfortunately, this means you have a higher chance of become a victim of a pedestrian accident.
The rate of injuries and fatalities from pedestrian-involved accidents continues to climb at an alarming rate in this state. While some may point to poorly marked intersections, a lack of pedestrian safe streets and other engineering deficiencies, often it comes down to driver error. State lawmakers have recently passed changes to pedestrian laws, hoping to save the lives of many who walk near traffic. Sadly, many drivers likely have not taken the time to learn about these laws.
Will these changes in the law protect you?
Hundreds of pedestrians in Virginia die each year after being struck by motor vehicles. Thousands more suffer serious or catastrophic injuries. Speeding, impairment and distraction are three common reasons why a driver may not be able to avoid striking someone who is walking, especially when a pedestrian is crossing the street. Because of this, the following changes to traffic laws went into effect earlier this year:
- When a driver approaches you walking in a crosswalk, the driver must come to a complete stop. Yielding is not enough; the vehicle must stop even if the crosswalk is in the middle of the block.
- A driver must remain stopped until you have cleared his or her lane.
- If a vehicle is stopped for pedestrians in a crosswalk, any vehicles behind or beside the stopped vehicle may not pass while the pedestrians are crossing.
- The new law defines as a crosswalk every intersection involving roads with posted speeds of 35 mph or lower even if it does not have markings.
- Pedestrians always have the right-of-way at an intersection, so drivers who are turning must be prepared to slow down and stop if you are crossing the street.
The weight of a vehicle, even a small passenger car, is enough to cause injuries that may place your life or your quality of life at risk. Therefore, it is wise when you are on foot to use the highest caution and to use marked crosswalks whenever possible to improve the chances of arriving safely to your destination. Unfortunately, there is only so much caution you can exercise if a driver is negligent or reckless.