CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — As the days become shorter and it gets darker earlier, pedestrians in Central Virginia face increased dangers.
Molly Jackson, the marketing and training coordinator for Youth of Virginia Speak Out, said pedestrian injuries are the fifth leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 19.
“It’s heart-wrenching because it just takes three seconds to put a seatbelt on or just putting your phone down,” she said.
Youth of Virginia Speak Out is a peer-to-peer education and prevention program for teen driver safety.
Jackson said program leaders go to local middle and high schools to talk with students about unsafe driving behaviors and the prevention of crashes.
She said the program has helped to reduce traffic crashes and deaths among teens, but the numbers started to rise again in the wake of the pandemic.
Jackson added that the lack of visibility and distracted driving are some of the reasons for crashes in the Richmond area.
“Not well-lit crosswalks and not well-lit areas, especially in the rural areas,” she said. “We are seeing an uptick in pedestrian fatalities because they’re walking in the roadways and not on the shoulders. Drivers can’t see either.”
The DMV data map reports there have been 48 pedestrian-involved crashes in Henrico County so far this year. In 2021, Henrico had 76 crashes with 11 of them ending in a fatality.
Richmond appears to be a hot spot for pedestrian crashes as the city had 84 pedestrian-involved crashes so far this year.
Chesterfield County had 23 pedestrian-involved crashes in 2022.
Henrico County is the latest site of a deadly pedestrian crash after a 52-year-old man was struck and killed while crossing the street. It happened near the intersection of Nine Mile Road and Kenway Avenue.
Earlier this month, a woman was hit and killed while walking across Mechanicsville Turnpike in Henrico County.
After the pandemic, a spike in crashes prompted Henrico County leaders to reduce the speed limits and add roundabouts to dozens of roads.
Richmond city leaders have been promoting vision zero which is a project for the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists.
Jackson said drivers should always adhere to all the traffic laws, signs and signals. She added pedestrians should try to wear brighter colors and face traffic while walking to be aware of drivers.
“We’re always saying to drivers to put their phones down when behind the wheel,” she said. “If you’re a pedestrian you should also put your phone down and focus on your surroundings and focus on the path ahead.”