RICHMOND (VR) — The path toward safer Virginia roadways begins with drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists sharing the mutual responsibility of road safety.
Each has the right to use Virginia’s roadways, but when doing so, all road users must remember to act in ways that ensure their own safety and that of others.
This September, with the observation of Bicyclist and Pedestrian Awareness Month, cyclists, pedestrians and motorists are again being reminded of their obligations to keep Virginia’s roadways safe.
According to Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles crash data from 2021, there were 1,399 accidents involving pedestrians and 125 fatalities last year. Additionally, there were 544 bicyclist-involved accidents, resulting in 16 fatalities.
All were year-over-year increases except bicyclist-involved accidents, which totaled 545 in 2020. In 2021, pedestrian fatalities rose by nearly 10%, and cyclist fatalities doubled.
David Tenembaum, senior actuarial manager for Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. and a Drive Smart Virginia board member, noted the increases were consistent with recent trends.
“Creating a safe environment for bicyclists and pedestrians should be every motorist’s top priority throughout the year,” Tenembaum said. “However, Bicyclist and Pedestrian Awareness Month gives us a timely opportunity to raise awareness for an issue that is quickly becoming an epidemic.
“Fatalities from pedestrian-involved road accidents have increased by 63% in Virginia between 2010 and 2020,” he added. “With that in mind, we all need to make sure we’re aware of the laws that protect pedestrians, follow them and commit to being safer drivers.”
Under Virginia law, drivers are required to maintain a 3-foot distance from pedestrians and bicyclists on the state’s roadways. When sharing the road with vehicles, cyclists should ride with traffic, and pedestrians should walk facing traffic.
Drivers also are required to yield the right of way to pedestrians at any clearly marked crosswalks and at intersections where the legal maximum speed doesn’t exceed 35 mph.
Motorists also must yield in extensions of sidewalk boundaries at the end of a block.
Each September, Drive Smart Virginia reminds drivers, pedestrians and cyclists to share Virginia’s roadways safely through its “See and Be Seen” campaign. The campaign advocates for motorists to drive distraction-free and to be aware of other road users.
It also urges bicyclists and pedestrians to avoid distractions, obey traffic laws and increase their visibility by wearing bright and reflective clothing and using flashlights and bike lights, which in turn provides added safety.