On December 13, 2016, the Winchester Police Department, Winchester Sheriff’s Office, and Commonwealth’s Attorney, announced plans to increase enforcement in pedestrian crosswalks. Law Enforcement officials want to raise awareness to the community of the dangers of not yielding to pedestrians.
The police department will be setting up random surveillance at intersections in the city. Both agencies will be extra vigilant, and will issue citations if drivers violate the law and fail to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. Virginia code 46.2-924 requires drivers entering, crossing, or turning at intersections to change their course, slow down, or stop, to permit pedestrians to cross safely. Pedestrians crossing highways at intersections always have the right-of-way over vehicles making turns.
The Winchester Police Department has investigated seven pedestrian-involved accidents over the last three months. Police have noticed a trend that is very concerning: In all of these cases, the pedestrians were in a marked crosswalk, and they had a walk signal when they were hit by a vehicle. In most cases, drivers had green lights and were making left-hand turns when they struck the individuals. The accidents occurred at the following locations:
|8/30/16||Valley Avenue and Lake Drive||77 y/o male||Head injury||28 y/o male||Reckless driving|
|8/30/16||N. Pleasant Valley Road and Woodstock Lane||18 y/o male||Dislocated shoulder||28 y/o male||Failure to yield to pedestrians in crosswalk|
|10/14/16||E. Boscawen St. and N. Cameron St.||61 y/o female, 51 y/o male||Shoulder, knee injuries||41 y/o male||Failure to yield to pedestrians in crosswalk (2)|
|11/17/16||3124 Valley Ave.||83 y/o female||Death||23 y/o female||Driving with suspended license, involuntary manslaughter|
|12/1/16||W. Boscawen St. and S. Braddock St.||19 y/o female||Shoulder injury||32 y/o female||Failure to yield to pedestrians in crosswalk|
|12/9/16||Berryville Ave. and Baker Lane||31 y/o female||No serious injuries||Unknown||Felony hit and run (if identified)|
|12/10/16||N. Pleasant Valley Road and National Ave.||28 y/o male||Head injury||38 y/o female||No charges|
Police want to remind pedestrians they also have a responsibility when it comes to safely crossing the street. You cannot expect that traffic will stop just because it’s the law. The law also states that no pedestrian shall enter or cross an intersection in disregard of approaching traffic. It is possible for a pedestrian to be charged for running in front of traffic.
Officers provided a demonstration of the correct way to cross the street: First hit the crosswalk button (if available). Wait for the walk sign, look both ways, then slowly step from the curb onto the sidewalk to present yourself. Pause. Make eye contact with drivers around you. Continue to look in all directions and cross to the other side of the street.
Police want to remind residents that anyone can be a victim, even if they aren’t frequent walkers. Recent victims included an elderly woman walking from the grocery store to the bus stop, a city employee walking to lunch, and a student who was walking to school. It is important for both drivers and pedestrians to always be aware of their surroundings.
The City of Winchester has recently installed new signals to help increase visibility near frequently used crosswalks. The new flashing pedestrian signals were installed at Cork St. and Indian Alley, and on Cameron St. near Rouss Ave. A flashing stop sign was also installed at the intersection of Braddock Street and Amherst Street. The City is evaluating the effectiveness of these flashing signs before deciding to purchase and install more in other high traffic areas.
Drivers who fail to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians may be issued a traffic infraction, which is punishable by a fine of up to $500. Depending on the circumstances of the incident, a driver could also be charged with reckless driving. A conviction on such charges could result in up to 6 months suspension of driver’s license, one year in jail, and a $2,500 fine. If an accident results in death, a driver may face involuntary manslaughter charges, which is a Class 5 Felony. In this case, a conviction may result in up to 10 years in jail, revocation of driver’s license, and up to a $2,500 fine.