A 64-year-old woman trying to power her wheelchair across West Constance Road near Suffolk West Shopping Center on Friday night, March 12 was struck by an SUV and died from injuries after being transported to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. The Suffolk (VA) News-Herald noted that police investigating the fatal accident have identified the driver who hit the woman but have not yet filed any charges. The police also believe darkness and heavy rains may have made the woman and her wheelchair difficult for the SUV driver to see. The woman who lost her life was using a marked crosswalk.
Exactly how many wheelchair user die or become injured each year in street crossing accidents is unclear, but deaths involving wheelchair-bound men and women certainly occur too often. A Sacramento, California (CA), man died on the night of March 9 when a car ran over him and his wheelchair. Closer to home, a tractor-trailer barreling down U.S. Route 60 through the town of Kenova, West Virginia (WV), hit, trapped, dragged and killed a wheelchair-bound man.
At night, in bad weather and when approaching crosswalks, drivers must slow down and exercise extra caution. At the same time, while Virginia law requires drivers to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks or moving directly from one street corner to another, Virginia’s code also explicitly states, "No pedestrian shall enter or cross an intersection in disregard of approaching traffic." This means pedestrians on foot or in wheelchairs must wait for breaks in traffic long enough to permit them to cross safely.
About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, whose attorneys work out of offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.