Pedestrian deaths soar across Fairfax County

Pedestrians have been struck by cars when not walking in the crosswalk, often resulting in the death of the person on foot.
Pedestrians have been struck by cars when not walking in the crosswalk, often resulting in the death of the person on foot.

Northern Virginia Police are unsure why pedestrian fatalities have nearly tripled from last year.  There have been 10 pedestrian fatalities so far this year across Fairfax County.  In 2008, there were a total of four pedestrian deaths in Fairfax County; in just the first eight months of 2009, there have been 10.  This month two fatal pedestrian accidents involved people not walking in the crosswalk.  In both cases, the drivers were not charged.  “A lot of times the pedestrians are at fault,” said Lt. Butch Gamble of the Fairfax County Police Department. “Other than that, we have not been able to link any causation factors among the ten fatalities this year.”

According to Gamble, if an open or activated cell phone is discovered in the possession of a victim or a driver, police can determine if it was being used at the time of an accident for either voice or text messaging. He said none of the ten fatalities this year seemed to involve cell phone transmissions.

“There were 14 pedestrian fatalities in 2006 and 16 in 2007,” police public information officer Tawny Wright said. “We would like to attribute the low number in 2008 to the fact that we have cracked down on drunk driving and public intoxication in the county, but we really don’t know why the number is higher again this year.”  According to the Web site Streetsmart — a “crosswalk education” campaign that places posters in the Washington, D.C., suburban Maryland and northern Virginia area — pedestrian fatalities in the greater Washington region are high in proportion to the number of pedestrian trips.  The Fairfax Times reported that approximately 2,900 pedestrians and bicyclists are injured every year in the region, and an average of 84 are killed. Pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities accounted for one-fifth of the total traffic fatalities in the District, suburban Maryland and northern Virginia from 2002-2006.  “We can’t stress enough that pedestrians use a crosswalk when crossing a street,” Wright said.

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