Fairfax County has highest rate of senior pedestrian deaths in Virginia

Virginia saw an uptick in senior pedestrian deaths in 2019, with the highest rate unfolding in Fairfax County, according to motoring organization AAA.

AAA Mid-Atlantic found that people 65 and older accounted for more than a third of pedestrian deaths last year in Fairfax County.

From January to October, 16 senior pedestrians were killed in Virginia: six in Fairfax County, four in Henrico County and three in Arlington County.

According to preliminary data, a total of 37 pedestrians who are over 65 were killed in Virginia by the end of 2019, compared to 19 in 2018.

These fatalities are more likely to occur in populated areas on urban roads. The most common times for senior citizens to be struck are during sunset (between 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.) and sunrise (between 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.), a AAA Mid-Atlantic news release said.

AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend said one reason for these fatalities is that it takes older pedestrians much longer to cross legally in a crosswalk, in addition to other issues related to the aging process. These have to be addressed by traffic engineers and local jurisdictions, he said.

One way to make older pedestrians safer is to change the timing system to give them more time to cross and designing better intersections.

Nine out of 10 victims were struck and killed within five miles of their homes.

“The huge increase in senior pedestrian fatalities in Virginia is alarming,” Morgan Dean, a senior specialist at AAA Mid-Atlantic Public and Government Affairs, said in a statement.

There were 16 total pedestrian deaths during 2019 in Fairfax County, down from 17 in 2018.

Most pedestrian fatalities are on roadways with speed limits between 40 to 45 mph, such as Route 1, Route 7, Route 236 and Route 29, according Fairfax County.

In Maryland, there were 23 pedestrian fatalities in Prince George’s County (down from 28 in 2018) and 14 in Montgomery County. D.C. saw 14 pedestrian deaths last year (same as in 2018)

AAA has the following safety tips to consider while walking outside:

  • Wear brightly colored or reflective clothing to make yourself more visible to drivers.
  • Use a flashlight to make you more visible to vehicles in the dark.
  • Cross at controlled crosswalks with flashing warning lights.
  • If there’s isn’t an intersection or crosswalk, cross the road in a well-lit area.
  • Don’t assume a driver sees you. Signal them and make eye contact with them before you step off the curb.

Early numbers from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles indicate there were 133 fatalities involving senior drivers in 2019.

Most of those happened on roads other than interstates, and 43% were single-vehicle crashes, AAA Mid-Atlantic said.

WTOP’s Dick Uliano contributed to this report.

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