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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.

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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.

If you are the victim in an accident scenario, and you’re able, virtually all auto insurance providers recommend obtaining as much information about the offending party as possible as it will be paramount in filing a claim. This can include the make, model, color, year, and license plate number of the vehicle involved. Sometimes the severity of the accident might prevent obtaining any information. If that is the case, identify any witnesses who might be able to corroborate any information regarding the accident.

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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Moody MS 8th-grader wins spell-off to capture pandemic edition of HCPS division-wide Spelling Bee

Ananya Nanduru clinched the 2021 title in the second round by correctly spelling “graticule,” the network of latitude and longitude lines on which a map is drawn.

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Ananya Nanduru of George H. Moody Middle School won a spell-off on January 26th to repeat as Henrico County Public Schools’ Division-wide Spelling Bee champion. The eighth-grader bested Hollie Kim, an L. Douglas Wilder Middle School sixth-grader, to win the tiebreaker, held virtually. Nanduru clinched the 2021 title in the second round by correctly spelling “graticule,” the network of latitude and longitude lines on which a map is drawn.

The winner was presented with the HCPS spelling trophy at Moody Middle School Tuesday afternoon by school division representatives, including Marcie Shea, School Board vice-chair and Tuckahoe District representative, and Amy Cashwell, superintendent. Nanduru’s is the third Moody Middle School championship in as many years. That means the trophy, which resides at the winning school, will remain on display at Moody. The award was made possible by a donation from four-time Henrico spelling champion Tejas Muthusamy, a former Moody student now at Maggie Walker Governor’s School. The Henrico Education Foundation had the trophy made.

Ordinarily, spelling champions from HCPS’ 46 elementary schools and 12 middle schools gather onstage at a middle school auditorium to determine the annual champion. Because of the pandemic, this year’s 58 school champions each took an online spelling test provided by Scripps, the media company that coordinates the national bee. Each was required to complete the test within a 15-minute window. When those results were tabulated, Nanduru and Kim had identical scores, and advanced to the virtual video spell-off.

Nanduru moves on to represent Henrico County Public Schools on March 15th in the Richmond Times-Dispatch Regional Spelling Bee, which will also be held virtually. The regional winner will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is held in late May and televised by ESPN.

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Crime

RPD seeking public’s assistance in identifying man found dead near Bandy Field and U of R

At approximately 7:06 a.m. on Sunday, January 24, an unknown deceased male with no form of identification was found in the 6700 block of Three Chopt Road. No foul play is suspected.

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From Richmond Police:

Richmond Police detectives are asking for the public’s help in identifying a male who was found early Sunday morning.

At approximately 7:06 a.m. on Sunday, January 24, an unknown deceased male with no form of identification was found in the 6700 block of Three Chopt Road. No foul play is suspected.

The male is described as a white male in his late teens or early twenties with hazel eyes, dark hair, and a slim build. He was wearing a tan long sleeve shirt with a distinctive design on the front of the shirt, grey sweatpants, grey shoes with green on them and had a tan backpack. Photos of the clothing are attached.

Anyone with information to assist in this investigation is asked to call Major Crimes Detective N. Reese at (804) 510-4183 or Crime Stoppers at 780-1000.

Photos of the deceased man’s clothing and apparel are below.

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Arrest made in Arthur Ashe Boulevard hotel homicide that occurred in 2020

Marquise McCormick was incarcerated in Chesterfield County on unrelated charges. Last week, he was charged with first degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony in relation to the Richmond homicide.

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From Richmond Police:

Richmond Police detectives have made an arrest in last summer’s homicide on Arthur Ashe Boulevard.

Marquise McCormick was incarcerated in Chesterfield County on unrelated charges. Last week, he was charged with first degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony in relation to the Richmond homicide.

At approximately 1:43 a.m., Tuesday, June 2nd, RPD officers were called to the Rodeway Inn in the 3200 block of N. Arthur Ashe Boulevard for a report of a person shot. They quickly located a victim, Jermaine Stroman lying in a third floor hallway. He had been shot. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Anyone with information about this homicide is asked to contact Detective G. Bailey at (804) 646-6743 or Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 or www.7801000.com or the P3 smartphone app. All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.

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