Tragedy on 29: Pedestrian death highlights need for safer crossings

The intersection at Gander Drive and U.S. 29 where Dorman was hit and killed. The closest crosswalk is approximately a half mile away. PC: Skyclad Aerial The intersection at Gander Drive and U.S. 29 where Dorman was hit and killed. The closest crosswalk is approximately a half mile away. PC: Skyclad Aerial

Before Bradley Shaun Dorman left his Charlottesville home the morning of October 25, he told his mother he was going to look for a job. He would be back in a few hours, in time to bathe their dog Gater.

Several hours later, his mother, Annette Simmons, heard a knock at her door. She opened it to discover a police officer on her doorstep. It was every mother’s worst nightmare: her son was in the hospital. He’d been hit by a car while trying to cross U.S. 29 North.

The officer drove Simmons to UVA hospital, where Dorman was on life support. He had sustained internal and external injuries from head to toe along his left side. 

“His brain stem was so damaged that he technically couldn’t survive,” says Simmons. “He would’ve had to live on life support forever.”

At the hospital, Simmons says Albemarle County police officers told her that the driver was speeding in the far-left-turn lane near Gander Drive when she hit Dorman, and that an investigation was ongoing. 

Police later said the driver of the vehicle was not found to be at fault in the crash and would not face any charges. But when C-VILLE requested a copy of the police report under the Freedom of Investigation Act, the department denied the request, stating in an email that it was withholding all police reports, “as they are part of criminal investigative files.” The department did not specify who or what was under investigation.

Simmons allowed family and friends to visit Dorman at the hospital before taking him off of life support. He passed away on October 27 at age 41.

Bradley Shaun Dorman, 41, died on October 27 at University of Virginia Hospital. Photo courtesy of the family.

Dorman’s death sheds light on the need for more safe pedestrian crossings on U.S. 29. According to Albemarle County Principal Transportation Planner Kevin McDermott, the crosswalk closest to where Dorman was hit is on the Rio Road overpass —approximately a half mile away. 

Since January 1, 2013, there have been eight pedestrians struck by a vehicle on Route 29 in Albemarle County. An additional five pedestrians have been struck in the City of Charlottesville between the 250 bypass and Hydraulic Road. Dorman’s death is “is the first pedestrian fatality on Route 29 since the beginning of those records,” says McDermott.

“We are trying to do what we can to make 29 a safer place for pedestrians,” says McDermott. “Five years ago, there were no crosswalks on 29 north of the city. Since then…we’ve gotten three new crosswalks on 29:” at Angus Road, on the Rio Road overpass, and at Hollymead Drive. 

Albemarle County has looked at additional crosswalk locations on 29, specifically at Hilton Heights Road and Woodbrook Drive, which are both near Gander Drive (where Dorman was hit). However, it currently does not have any new crosswalks funded or planned.

Due to the way funding cycles work, “we’re probably not going to see another new crossing out there for at least two years,” says McDermott. “But the county [does] monitor accidents, including pedestrian accidents… so when something like this happens, we take another look at the area and see what potential things we might be able to do to make the situation better for pedestrians.” 

Further south, city and county officials have been in discussions for years about improving the intersection at 29 and Hydraulic Road, but a plan submitted last year for funding through the Virginia Department of Transportation’s SmartScale program was denied. Earlier this year, members of the Hydraulic Planning Advisory Panel voiced support for the idea of building a bridge across 29 at Zan Road, connecting the Seminole Square Shopping Center with The Shops at Stonefield, and including a bike lane and sidewalks as well as vehicle access. 

Simmons hopes the county follows up on its plans to create more safe crossings, and wishes it would put crosswalks at every traffic light. 

“I don’t want nobody else to go through what I have to face,” she says.

Dorman did not have a car, and he often got rides from friends in order to run errands for his mother. He had moved in with her about two months ago, after breaking up with his girlfriend and losing his job due to health issues. Because of her severe back problems and inability to walk and stand for long periods of time, among other disabilities, Simmons relied on him to help her out around the house. 

“He was my first-born, my anchor,” says Simmons. “When I needed him, he was always there when he could. He would do anything for anybody…and would go to the extreme limits for his friends and family.”

Since Dorman’s death, Simmons has been struggling with raising the money for his funeral costs.

“I was told that the driver was responsible for the funeral,” says Simmons. “Now [the driver’s] insurance is saying they’re not responsible.”

Simmons, 58, lives on disability benefits, and says she is currently selling four burial plots at Monticello Memory Gardens and hosting a fundraiser on everloved.com in order to raise money for the funeral service and other expenses. She is also seeking the return of her son’s cell phone, which she believes may have been taken from the scene by a bystander.

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Taylor Black
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Taylor Black

That is so horrible. I have to cross 29 almost every day and it is a nightmare. And very frightening. I really wish the city/county would do something to make it more pedestrian friendly.

really?
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really?

It’s not like the county police do ANY enforcement on 29. Although the speed limit is 45 most traffic is going 55-60. It’s hard to even change lanes in a car. 29 is not even car friendly much less pedestrian friendly. Maybe one day ACPD will start doing their job until then they will just drive around in an effort to be “seen” and show presence while not enforcing any laws.