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County Urges Caution on the Roads as Kids Head Back to School

by ARLnow.com — September 1, 2012 at 6:00 am 3,317 67 Comments

In response to parent concerns about the safety of students walking to school, Arlington County is beefing up the police presence around schools next week.

The County Board directed police to shift more resources to school zones for the first week of school, according to a county press release (below). Police officers, sheriff’s deputies, parking aides and crossing guards will direct traffic around schools starting on the first day of school (Tuesday, Sept. 4). Police will be monitoring 18 additional locations around the county during the first week of school, the county said.

In addition to traffic monitoring and enforcement, the county is conducting a public education campaign — with electronic signs being placed in strategic locations around the county to remind drivers and bicyclists about increased foot traffic on the first day of school.

In a press release, the county noted that between 1,000 and 1,500 additional students are expected to walk to school or catch a ride with parents this school year, in comparison to recent years. Over the summer, Arlington Public Schools implemented a controversial new busing policy that will restrict school bus service to students who live outside designated “walk zones.”

The county issued the following press release about its back-to-school pedestrian safety push.

Responding to the Arlington Public School Board’s 2012-2013 transportation decision, Arlington County government today announced new measures to raise driver awareness and help ensure the safety of students and parents walking to County schools.

“With the first day of school upon us, between 1,000 and 1,500 more kids this year will be walking or riding with a parent to school than in recent years. It’s important for each of us to take special care when we see schoolchildren walking in the mornings and afternoons, and to be patient with parents driving their kids to school,” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes.

“Arlington County Police, at the direction of the Board, will be out to make sure that things go smoothly — putting more crossing guards at intersections, closely monitoring driving behavior near schools, and taking steps to raise driver awareness,” Hynes said.

Police Officers, Sheriffs Deputies, Crossing Guards and Public Service Aides will be directing traffic in and around school zones across the County starting Tuesday, September 4, the first day of school, to assist with an expected increase in traffic. Community members and commuters are reminded to stay alert and to yield to pedestrians at pedestrian crossings and in school zones.

ACPD’s Special Operations Section’s Motor Unit will coordinate additional crossings and monitor major roads and highways near schools as needed. Additional police coverage will be at 18 locations across the County the first week of school, and evaluated for safety. Highway message boards will be placed at key intersections, reminding motorists that a new school year has begun.

The start of the school year coincides with the Virginia Bicyclist and Pedestrian Awareness Week (September 9th through 15th). Special emphasis will be placed during the week on public awareness and enforcement of traffic laws governing how to share the road.

Drivers are reminded to:

  • Obey speed limits, which may change during school zone times
  • Watch for students walking and riding bikes to school
  • Do not pass a stopped school bus loading or unloading passengers

Walking students and all pedestrians are reminded to:

  • Cross the street at marked crosswalks and wait for the signal
  • Look before you cross and follow the direction provided by School Crossing Guards
  • Always walk on designated sidewalks or paths and never in the road when a sidewalk is present

Bicyclists are reminded to:

  • Follow the rules that apply to motor vehicles when riding on the road
  • Obey all traffic signs and traffic signals
  • Yield to pedestrians
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  • Mark

    I think this is a good move. But in fairness ACPD could do a much better job of ticketing motor vehicle drivers not just near School zones. It’s crazy how many people cut-off pedestrians trying to cross streets or block pedestrians from crossing streets so that they can more easily take a turn.

    • Matt

      And its also amazing at how many oblivious pedestrians walk out in front of cars assuming they’ll stop when they don’t have the right of way.

      • Chris M

        Regarding Mark’s comment about turns (Virginia Code 46.2-924):

        “Pedestrians crossing highways at intersections shall at all times have the right-of-way over vehicles making turns into the highways being crossed by the pedestrians.”

        • Hollywood

          Interesting, so pedestrians only have the right of way over cars turning onto the highway but not over cars already on the highway. I had always assumed pedestrians were yielded the right of way in all circumstances. Thanks for educating me.

          • drax

            Pedestrians who are already crossing a road have the right of way at all times, turn or not. (This makes sense-you can’t just run them over).

            This is about pedestrians who are waiting to cross. They do not always have the right of way. They have to wait for a crossing signal, or if there isn’t one, until it is safe to cross without impeding traffic. (This also makes sense – peds can’t just jump into a busy road in front of cars).

          • JimPB

            The full section of the relevant Virginia code:

            § 46.2-924. Drivers to stop for pedestrians; installation of certain signs; penalty.

            A. The driver of any vehicle on a highway shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian crossing such highway:

            1. At any clearly marked crosswalk, whether at mid-block or at the end of any block;

            2. At any regular pedestrian crossing included in the prolongation of the lateral boundary lines of the adjacent sidewalk at the end of a block;

            3. At any intersection when the driver is approaching on a highway or street where the legal maximum speed does not exceed 35 miles per hour.

            B. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection A, at intersections or crosswalks where the movement of traffic is being regulated by law-enforcement officers or traffic control devices, the driver shall yield according to the direction of the law-enforcement officer or device.

            No pedestrian shall enter or cross an intersection in disregard of approaching traffic.

            The drivers of vehicles entering, crossing, or turning at intersections shall change their course, slow down, or stop if necessary to permit pedestrians to cross such intersections safely and expeditiously.

            Pedestrians crossing highways at intersections shall at all times have the right-of-way over vehicles making turns into the highways being crossed by the pedestrians.

            C. The governing body of Arlington County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County and any town therein, the City of Alexandria, the City of Fairfax, and the City of Falls Church may by ordinance provide for the installation and maintenance of highway signs at marked crosswalks specifically requiring operators of motor vehicles, at the locations where such signs are installed, to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians crossing or attempting to cross the highway. Any operator of a motor vehicle who fails at such locations to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians as required by such signs shall be guilty of a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of no less than $100 or more than $500. The Commonwealth Transportation Board shall develop criteria for the design, location, and installation of such signs. The provisions of this section shall not apply to any limited access highway.

            (Code 1950, §§ 46-243, 46-244; 1958, c. 541, § 46.1-231; 1962, c. 471; 1968, c. 165; 1972, c. 576; 1976, c. 322; 1989, c. 727; 2000, c. 323; 2002, c. 327; 2004, c. 658; 2007, c. 813; 2012, c. 339.)

          • drax

            Unless they have a stop sign or red light or whatever, cars have the right of way when a pedestrian is waiting to cross. This makes sense, since peds shouldn’t just jump into traffic whenever they feel like it. They must wait until they aren’t impeding traffic, or when they have a crossing signal.

            Once they are in the roadway, though, pedestrians have the right of way. This also makes sense, since cars shouldn’t hit pedestrians or make them run in terror to cross.

            It all makes sense.

      • Smitty

        If they walk out in disregard of traffic then they are in violation of the law.

        • malaka

          and drivers interpret that as cars always have right of way – get our of my way!

          • Smitty

            I just drive around them.

    • Kathy Stokes

      I wonder how much it’s costing the county to beef up the police presence. More than $190,000? Murphy has a tin ear, as do members of the School Board. They gotta go.

  • Yorktown

    This whole thing is a scandal. Murphy needs to be removed and the School Board members should be brushing up their resumes. So much absolute BS and so little time.

  • Kathy41

    Of course the kids can walk to school–it’s wonderful exercise and a great time to visit with friends. I wonder why so much of Taylor school area does not have sidewalks. Did they opt out? I thought all neighborhoods were to have sidewalks specifically for pedestrian safety.

    • drax

      Lots of suburban areas are built without sidewalks, before anyone moves in.

      The county does not have a program to add sidewalks to every area, so there is nothing to “opt out” of.

  • Kelley Coyner

    This is not just a question of pedestrian safety in school zones. The changes of routes for those still ride in on buses will sometimes put them on streets without sidewalks or busy thoroughfares that are not in school zones. I would make sure that areas like Lorcom Lane and Pershing Drive receive particular attention as well.

  • At least the County

    Is trying. It’s more than Dr. Murphy has done in the last month. The appeal process is farcical. Your appeal is denied, we won’t tell you why. Feel free to appeal to another level in the same department that is determined to ram its new policies through.

    • anon

      The policy has been in effect since 2005. APS is enforcing it now. The scandal is that the previous boards let their previous superintendent ignore the policy.

  • http://ChangeNow ChangeNow

    Okay so the county provides extra assistance for a week or two. What about the other 30+ weeks of the school year?

    • Yorktown

      No kidding — It would appear that the School Board is asking Police Depts to devote themselves to these tasks full time over the course of an entire school year! The time to have gotten them involved would have been, duh, when this plan was being devised — When MPS was performing it’s consulting work … And, oh yeah, now we are finding out that the new head of Tranportation Services for APS was in fact a partner in the very same consulting firm! I mean the more one finds out about this gang, the more revolting this tale becomes.

      The Police Dept will do their part for awhile and then it’ll be back to business as usual and hope and pray for the best. Unbelievable.

  • JnA

    Bicyclists – Please obey traffic signs and signals.

    Pedestrians – Please don’t jaywalk.

    • drax

      Drivers – Please obey traffic signals and signs, don’t speed, and don’t driver distracted.

    • Kitty

      Drivers – Please obey traffic signs and signals.

  • Whatever

    A perfect opportunity to meet those quotas too!

    • Steve R

      Hyper-enforcement for a few days and then back to normal.

  • Arlington dog

    Moms; keep the cellphones in the pocket when walking your darlings to school. Pay attention to your children and your surrounds, and not your inane yenta cellular gabfests.

    Younger Moms;when walking your kids to school, for God’s sake, wear something that flatters your buttocks. The men who are driving to work need something to look at while the short people use the crosswalk.

    • Yidpatrol

      Penalty for improper use of ‘yenta’.

      • Horrid

        Yenta-like?

    • drax

      I disagree. Statistics show that buttock distraction causes 1.5 percent of traffic accidents.

  • JimPB

    Tie time for follow through advocacy with the ARLCo board and the ACPSchools board to truly make ARLCo a truly safe community for pedestrians, especially child pedestrians going to and returning from school. Proposed advocacy steps:

    1. A plan with target dates for providing sidewalks everywhere in ARLCo, to be achieved not later than September 1 2014.

    2. Provision for the presence of ACPoliceD officers and ARLCo sheriff deputies where children working to and returning from school cross busy streets every AM and PM for every school day in the 2012-2013 school year, complemented by priority deployment of officers for vigorous enforcement of traffic laws (no warnings, tickets always) around schools, school buses and along the routes that children are using for walking to and returning from school.

    3. A plan with target dates for installing flashing warning signs before crossings of major streets that children cross going to and from school, all such signs to be in place by September 1 2013.

    4. A plan with time table for obtaining any necessary authorization to and then for installing video cameras on school busses to record vehicles that drive by a school bus when the flashing red lights are on.

    5. A plan with time table for engaging with parents and residents along routes that multiple children take when walking to and from school about additional lighted warning signs, traffic calming steps, safety patrol deployments and law enforcement monitoring to assure the safety of child pedestrians. Where video cameras could contribute to detection of
    numerous traffic law violations, a plan for seeking authorization to and then placing video cameras in those locations.

    • Everybody Got To Shovel

      Yeah, the people without sidewalks have gotten away with not shoveling long enough.
      Put sidewalks in front of their houses so that they can be impacted by the snow removal ordinance as well !!

    • I.P. Daly

      Those measures will make zero impact as there are hundreds more intersections than the entire police force. pedestrians will still come across a car at the same frequency. The countys goal is to prove it has made some measure to mitigate the effect of its long term plan to do away with all buses and the recurring long term transportation costs, so it can say buy a street car legacy. Thats all that matters. Have any of these board members worked for Enron?

    • Ex Arlingtonian

      F’ It, just move to Fairfax or Loudoun where something like this joke would never happen.

      • 22213

        You may be joking, but it’s pretty clear that the only true plan Dr. Murphy and the board have to address “overcrowding” is to piss off enough parents that they leave the county. Well done, gang!

  • Confused about the numbers in the Post article

    Have been trying to follow the bus issue – can someone that’s been involved please let me know which figures are correct? How many children – total – are affected by the new enforcement of the walking rules and the elimination of the bus stops? I’m reading 250, 1000, or 1500. What is the correct total figure? Many thanks for the clarification!

    • Lizzie

      I don’t think there is any good number. Arlington county is saying that there are about 250 children whose stops were eliminated and about 1500 “walkbacks”, many of whom apparently weren’t walkbacks at all, as they were riding the bus with the full knowledge and blessing of the school system. Anyway, by their estimates, that would make about 1750. However there seem to be a lot more people pointing to eliminated stops and refusal of bus vouchers despite previous bus permissions than that number would imply, so I’d use that as the lower bound of the possible number.

      • And The Verdict Is…

        Agreed. That sounds like the most reasonable estimates to date. By APS’s own admission, they have no clue who rode the bus in the past (odd… you’d think that would have been part of their very expensive transportation study!)

      • anon

        “Full knowledge and blessing”? Prior to the bus passes, the district had no way of knowing who was on the buses so your statement is incorrect.

        • emanon

          i think her point is that many kids who lived within the 1 or 1.5 mile walk zone (depending on school) were considered bus-riders due to the additional clause in the policy about not crossing major roads. With “major” never having been defined before, apparently Lee Highway USED to be a major road for elementary schoolers, but now is not under the new interpretation. So, yes, many of the kids inside the 1 or 1.5 mile walk zone were, indeed, riding the buses with the blessing of APS, who routed buses into neighborhoods specifically to pick up these kids.

        • 22213

          The school district sent bus route letters to those at least some of those so-called “walk backs” — if you got a letter telling you your school bus #, wouldn’t you assume you were supposed to put your kid on the bus?

    • Ralph

      So far, around 750 people have signed the petition against the changes. This is around 1.7% of the estimated amount of parents in the school system.

      http://www.thepetitionsite.com/802/445/749/stop-the-implementation-of-the-new-aps-student-transportation-plan/

      Projected enrollment is 22,723 (students), then times 2 parents = 45,446 parents (upper bound).

      So upper-bound: 750/45,446 = 1.7%.

      • ArlingtonParent

        Very cynical interpretation of the numbers. Let’s assume the vast majority of families are not affected personally: they rode the bus before and they still will, or they walk and still will. So they are basically spectators. In my case, we are in the former category. I am following this issue since I think APS truly botched it. But, I am also not the type to sign petitions online. 750 people is actually a lot of parents, especially considering that many probably don’t even know about the petition.

      • Lizzie

        You are assuming that every parent affected signed the petition? It would be rare that such a petition would reflect any but a tiny fraction of those affected.

  • I.P. Daly

    Spend $100 million on traffic calming. Get rid of all buses to save recurring annual transportation costs. Continue to collect the same if not more taxes for a street car legacy. Priceless.

  • I.P. Daly

    Reminder: Vote Democrat this election super Tuesday in November. Lets keep givin it to the man. Is this thing on?

  • Ticketed

    Got a speeding ticket recently in Arlington. Does anyone know if you pay additional fees (court costs) if you contest the ticket? They already add on $61 in fees on top of the actual fine; I’m not sure if those are meant to cover court costs in case you decide to contest.

    • ACDC Hack

      No, that is the ACDC’s vigorish…..got any problems with that ???

    • Yes again

      You can not contest a ticket here. The Arlington traffic court is based on the old justice of the peace model where there is no prosecutor just the judge who functions as both prosecuter and judge. I had to go to court and watched a bunch of people try to object to their tickets and produced photographs and others evidence that clearly showed that the police officer could not of observed what they were charged with and the judge just told them to be quiet and upheld the original charge. I was not impressed. So before you head out tomorrow make sure your inspection sticker is up to date!

      • Ticketed

        Wow. Really? That’s just crazy! Almost Soviet-like.

        So do I get hit with any more fees if I show up and give it a shot? Or am I just out my time and dignity?

        • internet tourettes

          He is right, you can give it a try but but don’t expect to reduce your fine and fees. In other states I’ve always tried to reach a prosecutor prior to trial and 9 out of 10 times I could settle with them by either a reduced charge (less miles over the limit or alternative violation) or getting the charges dropped. No such luck here…

        • I.P. Daly

          1. extra fines if speeding in neighborhood not always show up when you pay online. Take a look on line by looking up the ticket at arlington general district court by your last name.

    • Ralph

      Where were you speeding?

      • Ticketed

        S George Mason Dr. I was going about the same as everyone else, but the cop saw me changing lanes to avoid some parked construction equipment and then to go around someone turning left. I suspect he never even got me on the radar.

        Thanks to the others who replied.

        Maybe I’ll try to talk to the prosector.

        • Ticketed

          PS: It was not during school-zone hours.

    • JDoew

      No additional fees, but the judge is not required to follow the pre-payment amount. The court fees are required whether you prepay or appear in court to contest.

  • Taylor

    Well, these are three items that will hardly ever be followed:

    Bicyclists are reminded to:
    •Follow the rules that apply to motor vehicles when riding on the road
    •Obey all traffic signs and traffic signals
    •Yield to pedestrians

    • cyclist

      Motorists are reminded to:
      •Follow the rules that apply to motor vehicles when riding on the road
      •Obey all traffic signs and traffic signals
      •Yield to pedestrians

  • Just one parent

    While we appreciate the County Board’s efforts for the first week of school, the additional police presence needs to be permanent due to the major changes in the transportation policy. As such, the County should bill Superintendent Murphy for the cost! Then he might realize busing students facing traffic safety issues is more cost effective and a smarter use of county resources. The previous bus routes had exceptions to the busing rules, as permitted by the policies, for safety reasons. I just hope it won’t take an injured child for APS to come to their senses.

    • I.P. Daly

      Dont beat up on Murphy, Speaks or the APS staff, you should beat up the Arlington Public School Board and the Arlington County Board who gets their ideas enforced, over Murphy and Speaks, because they control the money. To boot, the liberal base only votes Democrat so change is a long time coming. More of their regression played out on parents.

  • JnA

    Anyone else notice how many speed limit and stop signs are obscured by foliage? Maybe ArlNow could feature a few.

  • I.P. Daly

    At a four way stop sign, when two cars approach the intersection at the same time, “left yields to right”.

    • Arlington Driver

      I yield to no one. I rarely even stop.

  • Matt

    Well congratulations, ACSB, Military Road was a parking lot in BOTH directions for miles this morning due to all the ‘walkers’ and the attendant police presence.

    I couldn’t care less whether kids walk or ride buses, but creating an artificial commuting mess is unacceptable.

  • Megan

    This morning on Lee Hwy, I witnesses an Arlington County School Bus make a right hand turn onto N. Kirkwood….FROM THE FAR LEFT LANES to turn onto Spout Run. Almost hitting multiple cars in the process. *THIS CLOSE* to serious injuries and Lee Hwy being shut down for who knows how long. So while all the motorists in Arlington are paying more attention, maybe the bus drivers should too.

  • Set the Controls

    “The County Board directed police to shift more resources to school zones for the first week of school, according to a county press release…”

    I’m glad anyone did this, but is ACPD just sitting there waiting for instructions from the county board? Of all police priorities I would think protecting school zones ranks at the top of the list. Shouldn’t the police be granted the gift of autonomous thought and decision-making in functions as important and obvious as this?

    • Regis

      Nobody is as smart as the County Board.

    • Bank Robber

      That’s Great News!

    • Yorktown

      I know, Set the Controls — It’s really absurd. All Hail King Pat and Queen Emma! My kingdom for a bus! These folks are totally totally off their collective rockers … Here’s to hoping Murphy gets sacked sometime soon. This entire story is absolutely unbelievable. Like some weird Pixar movie — I’m waiting for the hero or heroine to arrive on the scene.

      If these folks had bothered to consult with Police reps and other public transportation safety mavens during the time this insanity was being baked in the oven we might not be in this mess! And they still had to be begged and hit over the head by a mess of angry parents to get the cops involved at all. As if the police are going to be patroling any of these sites for anything more than a bit — all for show and to look good.

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