Motorists urged to watch for bicyclists and pedestrians

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Virginia pedestrian deaths reached a record high in 2019, so Drive Smart Virginia is reminding drivers, pedestrians and cyclists to share the responsibility of road safety—especially during Bicyclist and Pedestrian Awareness Month in September.

The organization’s “See and Be Seen” campaign advocates for motorists to drive without distractions and to be aware of other road users. The initiative also urges bicyclists and pedestrians to avoid distractions, obey traffic laws and increase their visibility by wearing bright and reflective clothing and using flashing lights.

Drive Smart Virginia’s annual report revealed 126 pedestrians and 13 bicyclists were killed on Virginia roads in 2019, and an additional 1,896 pedestrians and 754 cyclists were injured.

“The increase in deaths and injuries of pedestrians and bicyclists on Virginia roadways is alarming,” said Darlene Wells, executive vice president and general manager of Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co., and a member of the DSV board of directors. “Everyone has the right to use the roadways, and it is important that everyone is looking out for each other.”

Drivers are required to maintain a 3-foot distance from pedestrians and cyclists on roadways. When sharing roads with vehicles, cyclists should ride with traffic, and pedestrians should walk facing traffic, as far away from vehicles as possible.

Virginia law requires drivers to yield the right of way to pedestrians at any clearly marked crosswalk. Motorists also must yield in extensions of sidewalk boundaries at the end of a block, and at any intersection without sidewalks where the legal maximum speed doesn’t exceed 35 mph.

In rural areas where roadways may not accommodate added space for pedestrians and cyclists, drivers should use extra caution.

“As a driver, you need to be absolutely aware of where you are,” said Dana Fisher, chairman of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Safety Advisory Committee.

“If you’re coming up on someone and you’re distracted for any reason, you’re going to approach them at a faster rate than you would anticipate. You need to be aware of blind corners, drops and hills and, especially if you’re on a road where you can’t see very clearly, you need to make sure you’re not distracted as you drive.”

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