RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Pedestrian-involved road fatalities reached a record-high in 2021, according to Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) statistics. That number is on track to be broken in 2022.

The yearly number of pedestrian deaths in Virginia decreased substantially in 2020 as driving travel was restricted due to the pandemic. However, since that reduction, pedestrian deaths have steadily been increasing and even exceeding the fatality rate from before the pandemic.

In 2017, there were 114 pedestrian-involved fatalities throughout Virginia; in 2018, that number rose to 123; and in 2019, that number was 124.

In 2020, the pandemic caused Virginia’s pedestrian death toll to drop back down to 114. However, in 2021 that number jumped to 125.

This year, Virginia is on pace to have an even higher number of pedestrian-involved fatalities. This time last year, there had been 46 pedestrian-involved deaths. This year so far, that number is 57.

In the past week, there have been at least two fatal pedestrian hit-and-runs throughout Central Virginia. The first was a hit-and-run in Shockoe Bottom where a Richmond woman in a wheelchair was killed. The second was a hit-and-run in Spotsylvania that left another man dead on the side of the road.

The increase in pedestrian deaths is part of a larger trend in vehicle fatalities. In 2020, 968 people died in crashes on Virginia roadways — the highest number of annual fatalities since 2007 when 1,026 people died. The fatality rate of 2021 was a 14.3% increase over 2020.

However, even in the record-high year of 2007, pedestrian fatalities have never been higher than they were in 2021.

(Courtesy of Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles)

“There are immediate, simple actions Virginians can take to save lives on our roadways,” said Acting DMV Commissioner Linda Ford, the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative in comments pertaining to the overall increase in driving fatalities. “This is critically important as fatalities continue to increase this year. Vehicles and roadways are safer than they ever have been, yet we continue to lose lives to senseless crashes. Do your part to help. Slow down, buckle up, focus on the task of driving and never drive impaired. It truly is that simple.”

DMV and its highway safety partners say that they embrace data-driven strategies to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities on Virginia roadways. These range from education and enforcement to grant funding, news media engagement and advertising. 

How pedestrians can stay safe

The Department of Motor Vehicles released a reminder on Friday, encouraging Virginia drivers and pedestrians to respect each other and stay safe on the roads during the busy summer season.

Items that help drivers see pedestrians, bicyclists and pets include, but are not limited to:

  • Reflective clothing and shoes or light-colored clothing
  • Reflective accessories, such as spoke clips, wristbands and belts
  • Reflective strips to attach to clothing, backpacks, etc.
  • Bicycle light on the front and a red reflector or red light on the back of bikes
  • Headlamps and clip-on lights
  • Reflective dog leashes and collars

Drivers were also reminded to turn headlights on when there is reduced visibility or low lighting.