PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – The Governors Highway Safety Association is reporting that fewer drivers were on the road in 2020. What’s alarming is that there more pedestrians killed over that same period.
“I can’t imagine what she must have been thinking in that moment,” said Portsmouth’s Betty Walker.
That moment happened in Portsmouth last October and ended a 49-year-old woman’s life.
“We have nothing,” Walker added. “We have no closure.”
It was a moment that changed everything for a family.
“I think about her every day,” Walker said. “For us, it is really too early not to think about her every day.”
Connie Damond was walking with her boyfriend and pushing her 2-year-old grandson’s stroller down Jefferson Street on that night in October. They were hit from behind. Damond died a short time later, her boyfriend was severely injured and somehow her grandson only suffered bumps and bruises. The driver never stopped.
“People hit dogs on the road and they will stop and move them, but people are just left there,” Walker said.
As Damond’s family continues to look for answers, they are now part of overwhelming national statistic that includes 6,700 pedestrians who were killed by drivers in 2020.
“We just feel like she is one of the many statistics of people who get run over every day,” Walker added.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association driving was down 13% in 2020. It makes sense, because more people were at home because of the pandemic. Plus, there was nowhere to go. Even though fewer people were behind the wheel more pedestrians were struck and killed. The number of pedestrian deaths was up 4.8% from 2019 and remember 2019 was pre-pandemic. The combination of less driving and more deaths in 2020 is the largest year-over-year increase since 1975.
“Well, what we are seeing is a lot riskier driving behaviors out there,” said Pam Fischer, GHSA Senior Director of External Engagement.
Fischer says her organization continues to look at data and are seeing more drivers speeding, impaired or distracted.
“These unsafe behaviors are really impacting not just that person who is sitting behind the wheel, but also everyone else that is out there on the road and particularly pedestrians,” Fischer added. “Even if the numbers for walking went up, the fact that we had fewer cars on the road there should have been a similar drop in pedestrian fatalities and that has simply not been the case.”
North Carolina pedestrian deaths were up 12% in 2020, but Virginia saw a decrease, with ten less pedestrians killed last year.
Hampton Roads Pedestrian Deaths | 2020
Fischer says we can’t put all of this on the drivers. She said pedestrians have to do their part too. That includes using crosswalks, wearing reflective clothing and not walking impaired.
“We’re not talking about numbers,” Fischer added. “We are talking about people. We are talking about sisters, mothers, brothers, fathers and children. We have to understand that we can stand here and say that 6,700 people died in 2020, but those are people.”
“To us she is a lot more than just a statistic,” Walker said. “She was a good person. She certainly didn’t deserve that. I don’t get it.”
Damond’s family is looking for its justice. Unfortunately, they are not the only family left feeling this way.
“I know other families will probably go through this same thing and I feel for them, but it would be my wish that nobody would have to suffer through this again,” Walker said.
Portsmouth police tell us they are still investigating Damond’s death. If you have any information give the Crime Line a call.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP (1-888-562-5887) or submit a tip online.