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On Saturday, RTD columnist Michael Paul Williams’ column, “Pedestrian safety needs a regional approach,” decried the recent deaths of four pedestrians in the Richmond region during the past month. In the three days since that column was published, yet another individual was struck and killed Sunday. And on Monday, two pedestrians walking in South Side were struck from behind by a hit-and-run driver. As of this writing, one of the two victims remained in life-threatening condition.

While no one is exactly sure what’s causing the increased rates of pedestrian fatalities — more cars, more walkers, bigger vehicles or sheer inattentiveness — we do recognize that both drivers and walkers must remain consistently attentive to their surroundings. Staying alert can help everyone stay alive.

Every one of us has been a pedestrian at one time. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 6,677 pedestrian fatalities in 2018, a 3% increase over 2017. As more Americans take to walking for their health and saving on automobile usage, simple steps should be taken. Stay on sidewalks whenever possible. Walk facing oncoming traffic. At night, wear light-colored clothes and reflective materials or carry a flashlight. Stay alert and don’t text while walking.

Automobile drivers also need to remain alert and put their cellphones down. The NHTSA notes phone use while driving can be more dangerous than drunken driving. Texting is one of the most dangerous activities one can engage in while behind the wheel. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five or more seconds. That’s more than enough time to miss a ball bouncing into the street — and the child who will invariably come running after it.

Our April editorial, “Phone addicts are the new drunk drivers,” noted that Virginia motorists have been deemed the most distracted drivers in the nation. Virginia motorists use their cellphones an average of 9% of the time they’re driving — up from 6% in 2018. While the commonwealth does ban texting while driving, we believe all hand-held cellular devices by motorists should be banned. Attempts to pass such a bill faltered in the 2019 legislative session. Whatever the outcome of today’s election, we hope, the 2020 General Assembly will get serious about saving lives and pass such a bill.

— Robin Beres

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