Author: Attorney Courtney A. Van Winkle
Richmond residents may be pleased to learn that their city has been nationally ranked as one of the Top Ten Best Cities to Find a Job, a Top 25 Best City for New College Grads, and The Best Small City of the Future. They may also be dismayed to discover that Richmond has ranked near the top of another list, as the 20th most dangerous city in America for pedestrians. 
Pedestrian accidents have been a major problem in America for decades, accounting for nearly 10% of all automobile-related fatalities. Since 2000, more than 47,700 pedestrians have been killed, the equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every month. In Richmond alone the death toll has numbered 167. However, there are things you can do as a pedestrian to reduce your risk. These simple steps can help keep you safe on the streets.
1-Always be predictable.
As you walk along the side of a road, drivers make assumptions about what you are going to do. Try to fulfill those assumptions. Never dart out into the road or change direction suddenly and without warning. If you make your intentions clear drivers will have a much easier time avoiding you.
2-Use what is provided.
Many areas have built in pedestrian safety devices such as sidewalks and crosswalks. Sidewalks place a barrier of space and a curb between you and a car, while crosswalks provide a designated, visible walking lane where drivers expect to find pedestrians.
3-Always face traffic.
If there are no sidewalks, it is safer to walk down the side of the road facing oncoming traffic. This way you will have a clear line of sight for any cars on your side of the road and more time to react to their approach. In fact, VA Code § 46.2-928 requires pedestrians to walk on the left side of the road if there is no sidewalk. This provision is designed to "protect a pedestrian from the quiet approach of ? vehicles from the rear."
4-React to low visibility conditions.
If darkness is a factor be sure you are wearing bright or reflective clothing. A darkly clad person walking down a road at night is often invisible until it is too late. It may be a good idea to carry a light source. Also keep in mind that at night drivers are more likely to be tired and not paying full attention.
5-Never count on a driver.
Most drivers are careful and conscientious, but the only safe thing for a pedestrian to do is assume every driver is not paying attention. Even if visibility is good and you are crossing a street in plain view of an oncoming car that has plenty of time to stop, the driver may not see you. In the modern world we are constantly distracted by calls, texts, e mails, and a host of other interruptions. While it is certainly not advisable to deal with these while driving, we all know that many people choose to, and as a result are not fully minding their surroundings.
6-Know the street.
Know the speed limit and visibility of the street you are traveling down. Keep in mind that stopping distance increases dramatically as cars increase their speed. Always use extra caution when walking down or crossing a larger road with a higher speed limit.
7-Careful with alcohol.
Just as alcohol impairs your ability to drive, it can also impair your ability to be a safe pedestrian. People have been killed crossing streets that were clearly unsafe, behaving in a manner they never would have while not under the influence. If you have been drinking, be aware that your decision making may be compromised. By following these simple steps, you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Together we can help our city eliminate senseless pedestrian deaths.