ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reports a “startling” increase in pedestrian deaths in the Roanoke Valley. They say the number of people who lost their lives while crossing roads or walkways has tripled since last year.

The agency reports 18 pedestrians died as a result of crashes in the Roanoke Region this year compared to five last year. It also reports increases in both motorcycle and alcohol-related deaths.

DMV Spokesperson, Brandy Brubaker told WFXR, “Pedestrian fatalities unfortunately are up throughout the state. So that’s something we’re going to be taking a deep dive into to really figure out what is behind that.” She says most pedestrian fatalities in the commonwealth happened in urban areas in the evening hours between 6 p.m. and midnight. She added, “60% of those killed were 50 years old or older, and males represented 69% of the people who were killed.”

Some leaders in the City of Roanoke believe it should be easier to cross roads with multiple lanes.

Executive Director of the Greater Williamson Road Area Business Association, Valerie Brown has been working on a safety improvement project for Williamson Road. She says it is known as one of the most concerning roadways in the Commonwealth.

“I see people in wheelchairs just darting between cars to get to the other side of the road because that’s the only way they know to get to the other side of the road,” said Brown.

The business association is partnering with Roanoke City to get a grant from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for sidewalks, curbs, bike lanes, and shared turning lanes. Brown says it could take several years for developments to begin if approved, but she hopes the project will inspire others like it.

Brown added, “We want the neighborhoods to come down and shop and be a part of the greater community. But we have to provide a way for them to do that.”

The DMV reminds drivers to maintain a safe speed, allowing time to stop in case a pedestrian is in a place, you don’t see right away. It also says pedestrians need to make sure drivers can see them before they cross a street.

Brubaker explains, “We like to say eyes meet to cross streets, and basically that means whether you’re a driver or a pedestrian, your eyes should meet before that pedestrian crosses the street.”

The DMV also reports high numbers of fatalities involving drivers who are distracted or speeding. They report three out of 18 pedestrian deaths in the Roanoke region were in Roanoke city.