April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the police department has issued a press release (after the jump) highlighting the need to pay attention while at the wheel, especially as more pedestrians and bicyclists hit the streets during the warmer weather months.
The press release also mentions impending state legislation that makes texting while driving a primary offense. Currently, a driver can only be charged for texting if pulled over for another violation — and the penalty is a piddly $20 fine for the first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses. The new legislation would allow police to pull over a motorist only for texting, and would significantly increase the penalty.
The bill originally called for fines of $500 and $250, but an amendment approved by the state Senate this week cuts that in half. The bill is now awaiting Gov. Bob McDonnell’s signature. If signed, the law will take effect July 1.
ACPD says it is prepared to enforce the texting law.
“Once the law is in effect we will incorporate it into our nationally recognized traffic and pedestrian safety programs,” said department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. “In terms of training, all Arlington County Police officers receive annual in-service training regarding new laws and legislative changes. The proposed Virginia texting law will be included in that training.”
A Maryland man was arrested Saturday night after he allegedly stole a female friend’s iPhone.
The man tried to surreptitiously smuggle the phone out of his friend’s apartment during a visit, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
While his friend was walking him to his car, her phone — which has a distinctive ringtone — started to ring, Sternbeck said. The woman tried to get the phone back, but the man got in his car and started to drive away, bumping the woman with the car in the process, according to Sternbeck.
The man was later arrested when he was pulled over for having improperly tinted windows. Police made the connection to the previous incident during the traffic stop, Sternbeck said. From this week’s Arlington County crime report:
ROBBERY, 02/23/13, 1800 block of Crystal Drive. At 8 pm on February 23, a known subject stole a victim’s iPhone from her apartment. The victim chased the subject to the parking lot where she was bumped with the subject’s vehicle as he attempted to flee the scene. The subject was located during a traffic stop for improper tint approximately three hours later. Durell Adrian Hines, 20, of Capitol Heights, MD, was arrested and charged with robbery. He was held without bond.
The rest of the crime report, after the jump.
Fisette Promises Details on Water Bottle ‘Crusade’ — Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette says he will provide additional details about his “crusade” against single-use water bottles — first announced at the Board’s New Year’s meeting — in April. Fisette did reveal that the anti-bottled water effort would involve a 15-member steering committee. [Sun Gazette]
New Metro Station in Rosslyn? — As part of Metro’s “Momentum” plan to revamp and expand the aging transit system, the agency has proposed building a new station in Rosslyn. Greater Greater Washington expounds upon that plan and examines the possibility of splitting the Blue Line at Rosslyn, building a separate Blue Line station, and running the line separately across the Potomac and into Georgetown. [Greater Greater Washington]
Metro Cell Phone Installation Delayed — Metro’s effort to enable cell phone service in its tunnels has hit a snag: after the contractor performing the work filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It could be 2016 before riders are able to use their cell phones in Metro tunnels. [Washington Examiner]
Above-Normal Lead Levels Found in Office Building – The General Service Administration has found above-normal lead levels in an office building in Crystal City. [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Mark C. White.
On Monday (February 4) just before 8:00 p.m., police say the woman left her home and was walking in the 3800 block of N. 9th Street in Virginia Square when a man approached her. He allegedly grabbed her and held a box cutter to her throat while demanding money and a cell phone.
Police say the woman told the man she didn’t have any money, and the attacker then led her about half a block away where a second man was standing. The men then reportedly took the victim’s cell phone and fled on foot.
The first subject is described as a black male, 6’0” tall and 160 pounds. At the time of the crime, the subject was described as wearing a ski mask, grey winter jacket, light jeans and was brandishing a grey box cutter. The second subject is described as a black male, 5’10” tall and 200 pounds. He was said to have a round face and beard, and was wearing a white hat, royal blue jacket with an orange bottom, dark jeans and white shoes.
Anyone with information about the suspects or this crime is asked to call the police non-emergency number at 703-558-2222.
Bill Would Ban Cell Phone Use While Driving in School Zones — Sen. Janet Howell (D) has introduced a bill that would make it illegal to use a cell phone while driving in a school zone or school crossing zone. Violations will be considered a traffic infraction and will be punishable by a fine of up to $250. [Richmond Sunlight]
Brink Supports Two-Term Va. Governor — Del. Bob Brink (D) of Arlington is one of several General Assembly lawmakers to introduce or patron a constitutional amendment that would allow the governor of Virginia to serve a second term. If passed, the amendment will take effect for the governor elected in 2017. [Richmond Sunlight]
USS Arlington Crew Members Get Decal Vote — Crew members of the USS Arlington, set to be commissioned soon, will get a vote on the new Arlington County parking decal. This year, the contest challenged entrants to design a decal incorporating the USS Arlington. Voting is open through Jan. 21. [Sun Gazette]
Civic Federation Supports LEAP — The Arlington County Civic Federation has approved a resolution to promote the non-profit Local Energy Alliance Program, or LEAP, which offers free home energy efficiency assessments to homeowners, along with cash rebates for energy efficiency measures. [Arlington Mercury]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Va. to Consider Tougher Texting Laws — In January, state lawmakers will consider bills that would stiffen the penalties for texting while driving in Virginia. Currently, texting while driving is a secondary offense — you can only be charged with it if pulled over for another violation — and the penalty is a $20 fine for the first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses. Del. Scott Surovell (D-Mt. Vernon) wants drivers to be charged with reckless driving if they get in an accident while texting. [Lynchburg News & Advance, Daily Press, WTOP]
Road Closures for ‘Jingle Bell Run’ — Parts of S. Joyce Street and Army Navy Drive in Pentagon City will be closed from 7:00 to 11:00 a.m. Saturday morning for the Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis. Race attendees are encouraged to take Metro. [Arlington County Police]
Hynes Lauds Animal Welfare Efforts — Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes has issued a proclamation praising the Animal Welfare League of Arlington and The Humane Society of the United States “for working together to improve the treatment of animals, including farm animals in the food industry.” [Humane Society]
PG Lawmaker Called ‘Too Arlington’ — Prince George’s County Council member Eric Olson, a progressive Democrat and noted environmentalist, recently lost his bid to become chairman of the Council. One lawyer who represents developers in Prince George’s County said of Olson: “Some people think he is too ‘Arlington.’” [Washington Post]
Voter Registration Deadline Today — If you want to vote in the upcoming presidential election and haven’t registered yet, today’s the last day to do so. Oct. 15 is the deadline to register to vote or update your address for the Nov. 6 election. Registration applications most be postmarked by today or submitted to Arlington’s Office of Voter Registration (2100 Clarendon Blvd) by 5:00 p.m. [Arlington County]
Marymount ‘Blue Goose’ Will Be Demolished — Marymount University’s distinctive but aging “Blue Goose” building at the corner of N. Glebe Road and N. Fairfax Drive in Ballston is set to be demolished and redeveloped. The actual demolition is still “a few years away,” according to a school spokeswoman, but the planning process is now getting started. [Arlington Mercury]
Metro to Miss Cell Phone Deadline — Tomorrow is the deadline set by Congress for Metro to have all of its underground tunnels and stations wired for cell phone service. The agency will miss the deadline and doesn’t expect to meet the mandate until the end of 2015. [Washington Examiner]
High School Football Update — In high school football action over the weekend, Yorktown came from behind to defeat Langley by a score of 24-14. The Patriots are undefeated with a record of 7-0. Washington-Lee and Bishop O’Connell both lost on Saturday afternoon. And Wakefield is still looking for its first win of the season after losing its homecoming game to Falls Church by a score of 41-6.
Update at 12:40 p.m. — Arlington County says its Emergency Communications Center is now accessible from cell phones, but other problems may remain.
More problems with the county’s 911 system are being reported as the area continues to recover from Friday’s storms.
Arlington County says its Emergency Communications Center is “experiencing problems with 911 calls from wireless phones.”
“Verizon is working to fix the problem,” the county said in a brief statement. “Please call our alternate emergency number at 703-741-3035 for assistance if you cannot get through on 9-1-1 or go to your local Fire Station.”
As stated during a press conference with the head of the county’s Office of Emergency Management earlier today, Arlington’s non-emergency number, 703-558-2222, may also be an option for cell phone users to reach emergency dispatchers.
On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board called for a nationwide ban on the use of all cell phones and text messaging devices while driving. The proposed ban would even apply to hands-free devices, like talking on a cell phone via a Bluetooth headset.
Using a hand-held cell phone while driving is perfectly legal in Virginia. That’s in contrast with D.C., which requires that drivers use a hands-free device. Virginia does ban texting while driving, but it’s considered a secondary offense, meaning that you must be violating another traffic law in order for the police to pull you over and give you a citation.
The only exception to those rules is for school bus drivers, for whom it is a primary offense to use a cell phone, and for drivers younger than 18, for whom all cell phone use is banned.
Would you support a more comprehensive cell phone ban in Virginia?
(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) Smartphone users who want a browsing experience optimized for their touchscreen device finally have a full-featured mobile option when reading ARLnow.com on the go.
ARLnow.com has a new mobile website this morning, and it can currently be accessed by scrolling to the bottom of the page on your mobile browser and selecting “Switch to Mobile Version.” You can switch back to the full website, if you like, by scrolling to the bottom of the mobile site and selecting “off” under “Mobile Theme.”
As part of the transition to the new mobile site, it was necessary to turn off image uploading in the comments section. We regret that there’s currently no way to allow comment images and the mobile website to co-exist. Images can still be uploaded to our Forums.
ARLnow.com’s legacy mobile site, meanwhile, is still accessible at http://m.arlnow.com. Users of non-touch screen phones, like certain Blackberries, should continue to use the legacy site.
As always, we welcome your feedback.
The text messages sharply criticize Democratic political candidates in Virginia. The party says the texts are unsolicited and likely illegal.
“The DPVA has reason to believe that these text messages are illegal and we are doing everything we can to determine where they are coming from,” the party said in an email. “Virginia Republicans… [have] resorted to the usual underhanded tricks trying to scare, intimidate or confuse voters.”
This morning, an ARLnow.com reader reported having received the texts. The reader called the messages “pretty dirty” and wondered who was sending them. (The texts reportedly came from the same 410 area code phone number that sends out Arlington Alert text messages.)
The readouts of the reader’s messages are as follows:
MSG:OBAMA & his VA DEMOCRAT allies want to RAISE YOUR TAXES. Send a message. DO NOT vote for VA Democrats on 11/08/11
MSG:Dave Marsden voted to allow Ffx County Schools to HIDE FROM PARENTS when they discipline kids. Ask Dave why.
The DPVA wants anybody who has received an unsolicited text message to call a hotline at 866-529-7620, file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission and file a complaint in small claims court.
“Please help us hold the Republicans accountable for these underhanded and illegal tricks,” the party said.
A spokesman for Republican Party of Virginia said they heard about the problem, but have no involvement with sending unsolicited texts and in no way condone the behavior.
Today, at 1:00 p.m., Apple will unveil its latest iteration of the iPhone. The hotly-anticipated release will be a big moment for the company, with CEO Tim Cook taking the stage in place of charismatic company founder Steve Jobs, who stepped down in August due to failing health.
According to the rumor mill, today’s announcement may only reveal an incremental improvement to the existing iPhone 4. Die-hard Apple fans may be disappointed, as tech blogs predict an “iPhone 4S” to be revealed, as opposed to a more thoroughly-redesigned “iPhone 5.”
Nationally, the iPhone has 27 percent of the overall smartphone market, according to the latest data from Reston-based comScore. The smartphone platform leader is actually Google, which has 42 percent of the market thanks to its Android operating system. Blackberry’s market share is falling rapidly, but it still claims about 22 percent of smartphone users.
Nationwide, 35 percent of mobile phone users own smartphones. The remaining 65 percent use traditional cell phones.
How do those stats compare to mobile phone usage in Arlington? Let’s find out.
Musical Moves to New Theater — The Arlington Players are moving next month’s production of Nine to the Kenmore Middle School auditorium. Earthquake damage was discovered earlier this month at the musical’s original venue, the Thomas Jefferson Community Theater. [Sun Gazette]
Roosevelt Island Access From D.C.? — Greater Greater Washington argues that ferry service or bridge should be established/built from the Georgetown waterfront to Roosevelt Island. Why? “Roosevelt Island is in the District of Columbia, yet DC residents have to travel through Virginia via or along a highway to get to this fantastic and wild resource.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Metro Cell Phone Upgrades Behind Schedule — Metro is well behind schedule in providing cell phone service to all 47 of its underground rail stations. The agency had promised to add service to the 27 stations currently without cell phone infrastructure by last fall, but now says it’s not sure when the cell phone companies will complete the work necessary to provide the service. [Washington Examiner]
County staff is recommending that the County Board approve AT&T’s request to put new cell phone antennas in a pair of North Arlington church steeples.
Last month the company went before the board to request permission to replace older antennas and equipment at 15 existing cell sites around the county. The equipment will allow AT&T to offer high speed ‘Long Term Evolution’ (LTE) data service to cell phone customers in Arlington. The board approved the replacement at 13 of the sites, but withdrew two for further consideration after a number of neighbors voiced opposition.
The two sites in question are both churches: the Westover Baptist Church (1125 Patrick Henry Drive) and Walker Chapel United Methodist Church (4102 N. Old Glebe Road). AT&T already has cell phone antennas in the steeples of both churches, but neighbors objected to what they saw as the possible health risks of the new antennas. Those opposing antennas at Walker Chapel also cited the historic nature of the 140-year-old church, even though the building itself is just over 50 years old.
Ultimately, county staff sided with AT&T, which argued that the new antennas will not be substantially heavier than the existing antennas — thus posing no anticipated structural problems — and will remain compliant with FCC regulations regarding radio frequency exposure.
“AT&T will contribute less than five percent of the maximum permissible exposure allowed,” staff wrote in the board report. The company agreed to annual, independent electromagnetic emission tests at all 15 sites to ensure compliance.
Last week’s revelation that the World Health Organization now considers cell phone use to be “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” however, will likely only serve to increase the resolve of antenna opponents. Even if the County Board wanted to decide the matter on the basis of health concerns, however, it is legally prohibited from doing so. According to the board report, federal law “prohibits localities from basing decisions on the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions if the facility complies with FCC regulations.”
The board is scheduled to consider the cell antenna requests on Saturday.
Trail Parking – This car chose an interesting place to park — on a stretch of trail between the county’s new Dept. of Human Services building and Washington Boulevard.
Snakehead Fish Invade Four Mile Run — Predatory snakehead fish have invaded the waters of Four Mile Run, between Arlington and Alexandria. There’s concern that the so-called “frankenfish” could kill off native fish in the stream, as it has decimated native populations of bass and shad in the Potomac. [WJLA]
Marymount Names New President – Arlington’s Marymount University has named a successor for retiring president James Bundschuh. Matthew Shank, dean of the business school at the University of Dayton, will take over as president in July. [Washington Post]
Cell Phones to Get Emergency Alerts — Soon, cell phones in the D.C. area will be capable of receiving emergency alerts via text message. [New York Times]
Gaslight Square Condos Selling Quickly — McWilliams|Ballard and Abdo Development have sold nearly $12 million worth of luxury condos at the still-under-construction Gaslight Square project between Rosslyn and Courthouse. [Marketwire]