“The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status, or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we all believe that we are above-average drivers.” — Author Dave Barry
Richmond, I know you’re not trying to hurt me, but you’re coming close.
Last week, I almost got hit by a car while walking across Monument Ave. I was in the crosswalk, and the warning light had just started its 32-second countdown. The driver was going south on Arthur Ashe Blvd. and made a right turn. He never slowed down and would have creamed me if I had been 10 feet further along in the crosswalk.
A week earlier, I was walking east along Main St., about to cross Mulberry St., when a car slowed at the stop sign. The driver looked left for any traffic coming on the one-way road and sped on to Main. She never saw me on her right as I stepped off the curb to cross the street.
Two near hits—too close for comfort.
I’m new to the city, and one of its many appeals is its walkability. I walk everywhere, averaging more than 40 miles a week. I rarely use my car.
I hope to continue exploring my new city by foot, but Richmond drivers, you have to be better. Walking here may not be good for my health.
Ten pedestrians were killed from traffic accidents in Richmond last year, compared to four in 2021, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. In the first three months of this year, Richmond has seen nine pedestrian fatalities, including two VCU students, and more than 160 others injured, according to the city’s VisionZero dashboard.
State and national numbers are no better. Virginia had 169 pedestrian fatalities from traffic accidents last year—a 35% increase over 2021 and the second-highest increase in the country, according to a Governors Highway Safety Association report. Nationally, at least 7,508 pedestrians were struck and killed by cars in 2022, the most since 1981, the report said.
“Every day, 20 people go for a walk and do not return home,” the Association’s CEO said.
Richmonders are fully aware of the dangerous driving in the city.
A recent post on Reddit/RVA about scary driving generated more than 300 responses within hours. Many detailed near-death experiences on our roads and complained that Richmond drivers are too reckless. “People drive like they are in a grocery store,” one noted. Another said the new normal is to view speeding limits as suggestions. A new arrival from Boston said Richmond has the worst drivers of any city he’s ever lived in.
“The unfortunate reality is that it has been getting worse as a pedestrian for several years in Richmond,” the advocacy group Bike Walk RVA said in a recent statement.
Traffic safety officials say speed, along with inattentive driving, are the biggest factors in these accidents involving pedestrians.
Not surprisingly, the chances of pedestrians surviving a crash rapidly decrease when the vehicle speed is above 30 mph. That’s concerning because I don’t know too many streets in the city where drivers are going slower than that. Have you been on Arthur Ashe Blvd. (25 mph speed limit) lately, or Monument Ave. (30 mph speed limit)?
Some numbers from traffic safety officials: If you are hit by a vehicle traveling at 23 mph, there’s a 10% risk of death; at 32 mph, it’s 25%; at 42 mph, it’s 50%; at 50 mph, it’s 75%; and at 58 mph, it’s 90%.
And the severe injury odds: 10% at 16 mph; 25% at 23 mph; 50% at 31 mph; 75% at 39 mph; and 90% at 46 mph.
You’re supposed to offer a solution in a commentary like this. City officials are promising changes. They talk about lower speed limits, speed enforcement cameras, speed humps, bump-outs, more signage, etc. (Did you know that a new state law requires drivers to stop—not yield—for pedestrians in crosswalks? I didn’t think so.)
That’s all fine, and I’m not a transportation expert, but my simple plea is to slow down for goodness’ sake and pay attention. Y’all drive too fast and are way too impatient and aggressive behind the wheel.
I’ve heard fall is spectacular here, and I have lots more things to see and do in this amazing hidden gem of a city. So please, watch out for me and my fellow pedestrians when you are driving.
Image by Veikko Venemies