Drivers Must Stop for Pedestrians Under New Virginia Law
Every summer, pedestrians are mowed down crossing the road in busy areas such as Virginia Beach Oceanfront and downtown Norfolk. The law instructed drivers to give the right of way to people on crosswalks for years. Now drivers must stop for pedestrians under a new Virginia law.
New legislation aimed at protecting pedestrians came into effect on July 1. Previously drivers had to give the right of way to pedestrians on crosswalks. Now they must stop for people who are anywhere on a crosswalk and remain stopped until the pedestrian crosses their lane.
What Does the New Pedestrian Crossing Law State?
The new Virginia pedestrian law makes it clear drivers must stop for individuals on marked or unmarked crosswalks. The law applies to:
- Any clearly marked crosswalk, whether the crossing is at mid-block or at the end of any block;
- At any regular pedestrian crossing included in the “prolongation of the lateral boundary lines of the adjacent sidewalk at the end of a block.”
- At any intersection as the driver approaches on the highway where the speed limit is 35 miles per hour or under.
Drivers who fail to stop can face a $500 fine. If a vehicle is stopped at a crossing, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from an adjacent lane or from behind the stationary vehicle may not overtake and pass. When a police officer is controlling traffic at an intersection, drivers must follow the directions of the law-enforcement officer.
The law states pedestrians who cross highways at intersections have the right-of-way over drivers of vehicles making turns onto the crosswalk. Pedestrians should use crosswalks where they are available because a person’s rights to sue a driver may be affected if they don’t use an existing crosswalk.
Virginia Law Code 46.2-928 requires pedestrians to walk on the sidewalk if one is present. If there is no sidewalk, you should always keep on the far left either facing oncoming traffic or on the shoulder if it is wide enough to provide safe passage.
Pedestrians and cyclists lack the metal frame of a vehicle to protect them during accidents. They suffer serious injuries even in low-speed impacts in residential areas. Small children are particularly vulnerable, so drivers must always look out for children in residential neighborhoods.
Causes for New Legislation
The new law was enacted amid a rising tide of pedestrian deaths and injuries. The number of pedestrian deaths in Virginia rose by 0.8 percent from 2018 to 2019. Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles figures reveal 124 people on foot lost their lives crossing the road in 2019 while 1,575 suffered injuries.
A report by the Governors Highway Safety Association revealed pedestrian deaths hit a two-decade high in 2018. The GHSA stated 6,227 pedestrians died that year – a 4 percent increase over 2017 and the highest mortality rate since 1990. Southern states recorded more pedestrian deaths than those in the north. Local streets are the most dangerous highways for pedestrians.
Although pedestrians have been killed and injured on crosswalks in cities including Norfolk and Newport News, the GHSA study found 72 percent of pedestrian deaths in 2017 were reported away from intersections. Alcohol impairment – either for the diver or the pedestrian – was a factor in about half of fatal pedestrian crashes.
Virginia Department of Transportation said under the previous law drivers sometimes tried to beat pedestrians across a crosswalk. VDOT Communications Manager Holly Christopher told Channel 13 News people used to treat the law like a yellow light. She said:
“They try to race through it or they try to hurry up before the pedestrian gets in the crosswalk so this is an opportunity for them to be able to have to stop and give the right of way to the pedestrians who have to stop.”
However, Christopher said pedestrians still need to pay attention when crossing the road. They should not dart into traffic even on crosswalks and always look both ways before stepping onto the road. Never assume cars, trucks, buses, and motorcycles will stop for you.
Contact a Virginia Pedestrian Accident Attorney After a Collision
If you sustained injuries while crossing the road or lost a family member, please contact our Virginia Beach pedestrian injury lawyers. We welcome the strengthening of pedestrian rights in Virginia, but fear walkers and cyclists will continue to suffer fatalities and crippling injuries in the Commonwealth due to the actions of careless and reckless drivers. Please call us for a free consultation.