Skip to content

Commentary: Community must work together to protect pedestrians

'The Vienna town government hopes that this campaign will raise awareness and inspire other communities'
Members of the Pedestrian Advisory Committee unveil signage as part of the "Eye to "Eye" campaign in support of pedestrian safety.

To the editor: The Vienna town government has launched a pedestrian-safety campaign called “Eye to Eye’’ to address the rise of pedestrian injuries and deaths in Fairfax County and across the nation, encouraging pedestrians to make eye contact with drivers before crossing streets.

The campaign will feature bright yellow signage at targeted crosswalks throughout Vienna.

October is National Pedestrian Safety Month. Unfortunately, traffic accidents involving pedestrians are on the rise. In Virginia in 2022, pedestrians were involved in 1,476 traffic crashes – up from 1,399 in 2021, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation. Pedestrian deaths are up even more significantly. Some 166 pedestrian deaths were reported in 2022, far exceeding the 125 fatalities in 2021.

In Fairfax County, 23 pedestrians were killed in vehicle crashes last year, the highest number since statistics started to be regularly collected in 2010.

Nationally, more than 7,500 American pedestrians were struck and killed by drivers, the highest number in more than 40 years. Black Americans are twice as likely on a per-mile-walked basis to be struck and killed. Latinos are 18.7 percent of the population but 19.2 percent of the pedestrian fatalities.

The rising death toll prompted the General Assembly to clarify the language on driver responsibility for pedestrians at crosswalks. The new law that went into effect on July 1 says that drivers must “stop” for pedestrians at crosswalks and intersections where the speed limit is 35 miles per hour or less. That replaces language that called on drivers to “yield” to pedestrians at crossings.

Working together as drivers and pedestrians, we can keep each other safe. The Vienna town government hopes that this campaign will raise awareness and inspire other communities to launch similar efforts.

Angela Sorrell, Vienna

Sorrell chairs the Vienna town government’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee.