Virginia Cops Flag Injured Pedestrians for Interference

Car-free New Yorkers have plenty to worry about these days, what with their crazy notions of personal safety under attack from seemingly all sides. But police in Woodbridge, Virginia are upping the ante by ticketing pedestrians hit by drivers. Via Grist and TBD, photographer Jay Mallin tells the tale: two men, hit on the same day on the same road, both airlifted to the hospital, both cited for “careless interference with traffic.”

This story should be shocking, but it stands to reason that in an environment designed almost exclusively for driving, those outside the main will at best be disrespected or, more likely, treated with contempt. Former Streetsblog Network editor Sarah Goodyear, who wrote about the Mallin video for Grist, recently summed up Tom Vanderbilt’s theories on the topic of cyclists as the hated “other.” The same prejudices, of course, are directed at those on foot. “You can’t cross the street anywhere you want,” said Officer Jonathan L. Perok, spokesman for Prince William County Police. Regardless of whether the nearest crosswalk is anywhere in sight, or if the walk signal button works, or if you are elderly or physically disabled or can’t afford a car.

Mallin also quotes Vanderbilt, who says that to the average traffic engineer, pedestrians are like “little bits of irritating sand gumming up the works.” With this mindset as a given among figures of authority, to be ticketed for “jaywalking” while laid up in a hospital bed is not nearly as surprising as it is unjust.

In fact, the cynical among us might rightly point out that if the two men in Woodbridge had died from their injuries, it would have saved the cops the trouble of issuing any tickets at all.

  • How surprising, too, that the two victims perps have Hispanic-sounding last names. What a monumentally bad road design.

  • Jacob Brunswick

    Once again, my state makes me proud. Of course, down here in Virginia, we expect people to get in a car before crossing the street.

  • Candace

    I live in Woodbridge, and yeah it sucks. Riding or walking anywhere is like playing a demented real life game of frogger. Both sidewalks and shoulders are a rarity, especially when trying to cross highway 1 and I-95 (i have to cross both when trying to get anywhere). Unfortunatly this is what you usually get when you live in the suburbs of America.

  • Eileen

    The VA law involved says,

    46.2-923. How and where pedestrians to cross highways.

    When crossing highways, pedestrians shall not carelessly or maliciously interfere with the orderly passage of vehicles. They shall cross, wherever possible, only at intersections or marked crosswalks. Where intersections contain no marked crosswalks, pedestrians shall not be guilty of negligence as a matter of law for crossing at any such intersection or between intersections when crossing by the most direct route.

    A good lawyer could make quite a bit of hay out of that last line — it actually makes it sound like you can cross the street anywhere you want. In fact, the words “unconstitutionally vague” popped right into my head in reading that. Then there’s Colbert’s example last week of the guy in SF who was arrested and charged with jaywalking (among other charges that were ultimately dropped) for crossing a street, which was closed to traffic at the time, mid-block. I think we need an ACLU branch dedicated to pedestrian rights…

    Here’s another very interesting Virginia law:

    46.2-823. Unlawful speed forfeits right-of-way.

    The driver of any vehicle traveling at an unlawful speed shall forfeit any right-of-way which he might otherwise have under this article.

    I wonder if Officer Perok bothered to wonder whether the drivers involved were driving at an unlawful speed?

  • clever-title

    Doesn’t that tractor-trailer blocking a lane deserve a interfering with traffic, too?

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