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Data: More pedestrians are dying on Virginia’s roads

In 2018, 123 pedestrians died on the state’s roads — the highest death toll in a decade. Preliminary figures show that in 2019, at least 120 pedestrians died in traffic accidents in the commonwealth.

Capital News Service

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By Kelly Booth and Judi Dalati

On a Friday night in October, Katelyn Tilts was walking to a convenience store with a group of friends when she saw headlights coming at her.

“A car came around the corner really quickly and was swerving. The driver was swerving but started going directly at me and hit me head-on,” Tilts later told WTVR. “I remember thinking that it hurt so bad that I didn’t know how I would be able to make it until the ambulance got there.”

The hit-and-run incident left Tilts, a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University, hospitalized and on crutches. She survived, but many pedestrians hit by vehicles do not.

According to data from the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Department of Motor Vehicles, 123 pedestrians died on the state’s roads in 2018 — the highest death toll in 10 years.

Preliminary figures show that at least 120 pedestrians died in traffic accidents in the commonwealth last year.

Not only are more pedestrians being killed, but they also are making up a greater proportion of all traffic fatalities:

  • In 2015, 10% of the people killed in roadway accidents in Virginia were pedestrians.
  • That figure jumped to 16% the following year. Last year, it was 15%, according to VDOT and DMV data.

“The vast, overwhelming majority of people who die on our streets are killed by drivers of cars,” noted Ross Catrow, executive director of RVA Rapid Transit, an advocacy group for regional public transportation.

“And the further sad truth is that these deaths and serious injuries often go unnoticed, underreported, and, even worse, usually nothing is done to build better streets and make them safer for people,” Catrow wrote on Streets Cred, his website about urban issues affecting mid-sized American cities.

Catrow has pointed out that some people say pedestrians are at fault for the rising number of traffic accidents. He rejects that notion.

“I’m so ultra-tired of engineers, elected officials and everyone else blaming ‘distracted pedestrians’ for the increase in injuries on our roads,” he said on his “Good Morning, RVA” podcast.

Catrow advocates traffic-calming measures such as painted curb bulbs and posts that can narrow intersections, increase visibility and slow down drivers to prevent pedestrian accidents.

Some people blame elderly drivers for causing accidents. But 25% of the motorists involved in traffic accidents that have killed pedestrians since 2013 were in their 20s — and half of them were under 40. About 22% of the drivers involved in pedestrian fatalities were 60 and older.

Ralph Aronberg, a traffic engineer consultant in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said some people in their early 20s have poor driving habits.

“Drivers in that age group are more likely to use social media such as Instagram on their cellphone, are more likely to have groups in vehicles leading to distractions and are less likely to realize the consequences of taking their eyes off the road,” he said.

Aronberg, whose firm focuses on accident reconstructions, said people in their early 20s are also more likely to drive at night, drink and drive, or be under the influence of THC or other mind-altering substances while operating a car.

Pedestrians killed in traffic accidents in Virginia since 2013 have ranged in age from infants to 96. About a third of the victims were under 30; slightly over a third in their 40s and 50s; and the rest 60 or older.

Since 2013, Fairfax has had the most pedestrian deaths — more than 80, according to VDOT data. Then come Henrico County (43), Norfolk (40), Richmond (31) and Newport News (27).

The roads with the most pedestrian fatalities during that time period were:

  • Jefferson Avenue, Newport News — seven
  • Route 11, Washington County — three
  • South Street, Front Royal — three
  • Southbound Route 288, Goochland County — three
  • Chamberlayne Avenue, Richmond — three

Weather was not a factor in most pedestrian deaths.

“Most vehicle-pedestrian accidents happen in good weather,” said Daniel Vomhof, a traffic safety expert in California and a member of the Accreditation Commission for Traffic Accident Reconstructionists.

More than 85% of the pedestrian fatalities in Virginia happened in clear or cloudy weather conditions, the VDOT data showed. About 13% occurred in rain, mist or fog, and 1% in snowy weather.

To stay safe, Vomhof recommends that pedestrians wear white or reflective shoes at night and light-colored clothing that doesn’t blend in with the surroundings.

“Visibility increases when the object is in eye contrast to the background,” Vomhof said.

About the data in this report:

The data for this project was downloaded from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Virginia Crashes | Virginia Roads website. It covers every vehicle crash in the state from 2013 to July of this year.

The data set contains more than 828,000 records. We filtered it for pedestrian accidents (about 11,000) and then for fatal pedestrian accidents (660).

We analyzed the data using Microsoft Excel, aggregating the data by locality, weather conditions and other columns in the spreadsheet.

We also used the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle’s online “Traffic Crash Data” tool to confirm and refine our analysis. We also ensured that the numbers were consistent with those published in the DMV’s report, 2018 Virginia Traffic Crash Facts.

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Crime

Richmond Police, Mayor Stoney apologize after tear gas deployed before curfew on protesters

Protesters took to the streets of Richmond again Monday night and were met with a forceful response and the deployment of tear gas by Richmond Police – an action for which the department and Mayor Stoney later apologized.

RVAHub Staff

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Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Richmond again Monday afternoon and evening to speak out after the death of George Floyd. The group organized near both the Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart Monuments on Monument Avenue and remained mainly peaceful until police approached demonstrators at the Lee statue and deployed tear gas, as can be seen below from the below Twitter video from VPM.

Around the same time, reports began coming in that protesters at the Stuart monument were attempting to bring it down. A young demonstrator scaled the base of the statue and took what appeared to be a hack saw to the leg of the monument’s horse in an effort to bring it down. Police responded by calling on protesters to stand down, citing the weight of the monuments and their potential to crush bystanders.

Richmond Police and Mayor Levar Stoney later apologized for the deployment of tear gas on peaceful protesters – well below the 8:00 PM curfew – saying it was uncalled for and inviting protesters to City Hall at noon Tuesday to “apologize in person.” For its part, RPD said the officers involved had been “removed from the field” and would be subject to disciplinary action.

The protesters then continued marching down Franklin Street, then W. Broad Street, where things fizzled out around 10:30 PM near 14th Street.

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Protests turn violent in Downtown Richmond Friday night

Hundreds took to the street to protest the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis. A police cruiser and Pulse bus were torched, and several shots rang out into the air overnight.

RVAHub Staff

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Hundreds of people protesting the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed earlier this week by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, took to the streets of Downtown Richmond last night to make their voices heard.

While the protests started off peacefully, things quickly took a turn. Around 10:45 PM Friday, a Facebook Live stream showed WWBT/NBC12 reporter Karina Bolster, who was reporting from the scene, struck in the head by a protester chanting “stop recording” using a water bottle. Her phone was also tossed to the street. Bolster, clearly shaken, did not stop recording and continued reporting through tears as she came to terms with what just happened.

As the night progressed, protesters set a dumpster on fire and later marched to Richmond Police headquarters at 200 W. Grace Street and surrounded the building. Richmond officers were joined by State Police and backup requested from surrounding localities to protect the building and officers inside. Nearby, a police cruiser was torched.

Into the early morning hours of Saturday, a GRTC Pulse bus was also set ablaze, the shell of which remained near the corner of W. Broad Street and Belvidere Street as dawn broke.

Several arrests were made overnight, but Richmond Police has yet to confirm a number.

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VIDEO: Police searching for West Cary Street commercial robbery suspect

At approximately 12:27 p.m. on Sunday, April 26, security video of a restaurant in the 3300 block of West Cary Street shows two male suspects who forced a basement door of a business open. The masked suspects entered the main area of the restaurant and stole a laptop, a backpack, a safe and cash from a register. The video shows the pair leaving with these items through the basement.

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Richmond Police detectives are asking for the public’s help to identify the individuals in the attached photos and video, who are suspects in a commercial burglary that occurred last week.

At approximately 12:27 p.m. on Sunday, April 26, security video of a restaurant in the 3300 block of West Cary Street shows two male suspects who forced a basement door of a business open. The masked suspects entered the main area of the restaurant and stole a laptop, a backpack, a safe and cash from a register. The video shows the pair leaving with these items through the basement.

One suspect wore a knit pompom hat with PHILADELPHIA lettering. The other suspect wore a hooded Halloween mask and a black/grey North Face jacket.

Anyone with information is asked to call Third Precinct Detective H. Truong at (804) 646-1067 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 or at www.7801000.com.  The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used.  All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.

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