If you find yourself in immediate physical danger while walking through a neighborhood, heading to a nearby fire station may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But the Arlington County Fire Department hopes to change that with its “Safe Haven lobbies.”
Although it is not yet widely known, a number of the county’s fire stations have been outfitted with special lobby features to protect a person who goes there for help.
The person in danger can go through the outside doors and into the fire station lobby, where the second set of doors leading to the rest of the fire station are always locked. When the person pushes the button on an emergency box inside the lobby, the outside doors automatically lock and the box calls 911. Someone at the county’s Emergency Communications Center (ECC) answers as if it were a typical 911 call placed from a phone. They speak to the person to determine the type of emergency and will then dispatch the appropriate emergency responders to the location.
There are cameras on the ceiling of the lobby that turn on when the emergency button is pushed. While waiting for police or fire fighters to respond, staff at the ECC will monitor the cameras to see what is happening during the call. The outside lobby doors will remain locked until ECC workers hang up the call when they determine the caller is safe.
The system can be used at any time, even if the station is empty while fire fighters are out on a call.
“The fire house is somewhere you can always come if you’re in danger. If you need help or have to call 911, you can come to any fire house,” said ACFD spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani. “It’s important to know that if you live close to one of these locations, one of the five that have it, that this exists and it’s another safety for you.”
All of the newer fire stations — 2, 3, 5, 6 and 9 — have a Safe Haven equipped lobby. Fire Station No. 9 was the first to be outfitted with the system when it was renovated in the late 1990s. The older stations were not built with lobbies, but the goal is to eventually install this type of a system in all of Arlington’s stations when they are upgraded or replaced.
So far nobody has used the system, but it’s unclear if that is because citizens haven’t had the need or if they’re not yet aware the Safe Haven lobbies exist.
The flashing lights will be installed at the crosswalk on the northbound GW Parkway, just prior to Memorial Circle.
“The purpose is to improve safety and increase awareness by slowing down traffic when pedestrians and bicyclists intend to cross the Parkway,” the Park Service said in a press release, adding: “Trail users need to be aware that the flashing beacon is a warning, not a stop sign.”
The lights will be temporary — in place for about a month. Park officials will consider the effectiveness of the installation during an upcoming evaluation of long-term safety and traffic improvements on the parkway.
The installation of the flashing beacon is expected to take place at some point next week.
Ft. Myer Drive in Rosslyn has become a hazard for pedestrians due to ongoing construction, but no solutions are on the horizon, according to county staff.
At the County Board’s Tuesday afternoon meeting, Arlington Transportation Bureau Chief Wayne Wentz had no major recommendations for safety upgrades to the heavily-used roadway. The construction that has most adversely affected safety — on the 1812 N. Moore Street skyscraper – is expected to be largely finished by Oct. 31, but the safety concerns will persist.
“We’re never going to be done looking at Ft. Myer Drive,” Wentz said. “We’ve looked a lot at jaywalking. We just can’t find a way to put a crosswalk in there.”
Wentz said county staff is considering installing signs telling residents not to jaywalk in front of the road’s tunnel — a common crossing zone for those entering and exiting from the back entrance of the Rosslyn Metro Station. The county is also in discussion to put up fencing on the sidewalk and in the two small median islands on either side of the tunnel.
“We need to be more proactive in preventing crossing there,” Board Member Mary Hynes said, “given the fact that we have had near-misses and a hit there relatively recently.”
The sidewalk between N. Moore Street and Ft. Myer Drive on 19th Street will remain closed after Oct. 31, Wentz said. The size of Ft. Myer Drive in that area is part of what makes it unfeasible to install a crosswalk. With more than five lanes, the likelihood of a multi-vehicle accident is much greater than on a smaller road.
“We think that there is a chance to reconfigure what Ft. Myer Drive looks like. It could be a two-way street or a narrower street someday,” Wentz said. “There is hope in the future to do something different there, but we don’t recommend it at this time.”
AAA Mid-Atlantic is reminding motorists to drive carefully in wet weather.
The association sent out the following press release this afternoon.
As the coastal storm continues through the Washington metro area today, motorists will face hazardous driving conditions during their evening commute due to rain and standing water, warns AAA Mid-Atlantic. The auto club is advising motorists to exercise caution when driving.
“Commuters heading home tonight will face the same hazardous weather conditions as this morning’s drive to work,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “When driving in wet weather remember to buckle up, slow down, and keep a safe distance from the car in front of you. Also, remember, it’s the law in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia to turn your headlights on if your windshield wipers are in use.”
To minimize the hazards associated with wet weather driving, AAA Mid-Atlantic recommends the following precautions for navigating in heavy rain, reduced visibility and slick pavement:
- Slow down and increase following distances. Speed limits are set for ideal road conditions. When it rains, visibility is reduced and braking distances increase. On dry pavement, a safe following distance permits two to three seconds for stopping; that should be increased to eight seconds on slippery roads. Train your eyes farther down the road than normal, so you can anticipate changes and adjust your course gradually.
- Do not attempt to drive through standing water on the roads that look too deep. Avoid bridges and roads that are known to flood. When driving on pothole-filled roads, hold the steering wheel firmly to avoid losing control. Just a few inches of water can turn your vehicle into a boat, and could put your life, and the lives of those around you, at great risk. Turn around; find another way to get to your destination.
- Watch out for hydroplaning. No car is immune from hydroplaning on wet surfaces, including four-wheel drive vehicles. Just because brakes work under normal conditions doesn’t mean they will react the same on slippery roads where tires roll with far less traction.
- Alert drivers behind you that you’re slowing with your brake lights. Without anti-lock brakes, squeeze the brakes until they are about to lock up and then release. With anti-lock brakes, use the same move – but don’t pump the brakes, which would work against the operation of the ABS system. Slow down as you approach a pothole. However, do not brake when your vehicle is directly over a pothole.
- Use the central lanes. When driving during heavy rain, use center lanes of the road (without straddling the yellow line). Avoid outside lanes where the water collects at curbside.
- Use low-beam headlights to help other drivers see your car and increase visibility.
- Use your defroster with your air conditioning to keep the air dry and prevent windows from fogging.
- Do not drive around barricades. Many lives have been lost when drivers disregard official orders and find themselves trapped in rising waters.
- Turn off the cruise control in wet weather driving. The use of cruise control on wet roads can cause hydroplaning.
- If conditions worsen to the point where there is any doubt about your safety, take the nearest exit and find a safe location. Don’t just stop on the shoulder or under a bridge where you may feel less anxiety. If your visibility is compromised, other drivers may be struggling too.
- Watch for slick spots on the road. Fumes and oil leaks that build up on dry pavement rise to the surface of the road when it rains, making the road far slicker than it may seem.
The electronic sign the Arlington County Police Department stationed at Washington Blvd and Route 50 with the seemingly obvious message “don’t hit the car in front of you” may have accomplished its intended goal. ACPD reports a reduction in accidents at the intersection.
The department targeted that particular area with an electronic message due to the high number of crashes there. It was the county’s top area for accidents during the second quarter of 2013. After the sign went up, however, the department saw a change.
“It appears the sign worked because there was a sharp decrease in accidents from July to August,” said ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
The sign went up in early July, and from then until today (September 11), police have only responded to two accidents. That’s down from about 15 during the second quarter.
The department believes the simplicity of the sign’s message may be what caused drivers to take notice and heed the warning. Despite the large amount of attention it received, the message did not produce any complaints to police.
The electronic sign is one of four ACPD owns, all of which are mounted on trailers so they can be easily moved around the county. The signs are rotated on a regular basis; messages typically remain for about two months, unless they show a short term alert such as a special event or one-time road closure. This specific sign was changed a few days after ARLnow.com ran the story last month.
Police officers will be a high-visibility presence, directing traffic in school zones, and variable message boards will be placed along county roadways reminded drivers to take extra precaution as students start returning to area schools.
Arlington County issued the following tips for safe driving on the first day of school:
Drivers are reminded to:
- Obey speed limits which may change during school zone times.
- Avoid distracted driving and keep your attention on the road.
- Watch for students walking and riding bikes to school.
- Don’t pass a stopped school bus loading or unloading passengers.
- Have all occupants wear their seatbelts.
Students, bicyclists and pedestrians are reminded to:
- Cross the street at marked crosswalks and never against a red light.
- Look before you cross and follow the direction of the school crossing guards.
- Always walk on designated sidewalks or paths never along the side of a road.
With a little prevention, all drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians can arrive at their destinations in a timely and safe manner.
Sept. 3 is also being billed by AAA Mid Atlantic as “Terrible Traffic Tuesday,” the day when roads are jammed because school returns and summer vacation season ends.
According to AAA, “the average 20.4 minute daily delay that drivers experienced around [the D.C. area] in July and August will return to an average of 25.8 minutes during September.”
The company released its annual America’s Best Drivers Report this week and once again, Arlington is near the bottom. The county ranked 10th worst, with drivers going an average of 6.7 years between accidents. That means drivers here are 50 percent more likely to get in an accident than the national average.
Bad driving in the D.C. area isn’t just confined to Arlington, however. Alexandria ranked below Arlington as the 7th worst while Baltimore and the District ranked as No. 2 and 1 worst, respectively.
Arlington’s drivers seem to be getting worse over time, at least according to Allstate’s statistics. Last year, Arlington was ranked as 12th worst, and in 2011 the county was ranked 14th worst. In 2011, Arlington drivers went an average of 6.8 years between accidents.
The safest drivers in the country, meanwhile, reside in Fort Collins, Colo., where motorists go nearly 14 years between accidents on average. The national average is 10 years between accidents, according to Allstate.
An electronic sign the Arlington County Police Department stationed at Washington Boulevard and Route 50 is raising some eyebrows. Not because the message it displays is risqué, but rather because it seems so obvious.
Earlier this month, @CruiseInDeCarr tweeted a photo of the sign to ARLnow.com, adding: “You wouldn’t think we’d need a sign for this.” While that may be the logical assumption, it appears drivers haven’t heeded the obvious advice, considering that intersection came in as the top area for motor vehicle accidents in Arlington during the second quarter of 2013. During that time period, police responded to 11 accidents at the site, nearly all of them rear-end collisions.
The ACPD believes the sign has caught drivers’ attention due to the simplicity of the wording.
“The current message was an attempt to simplify the message to reduce the amount of accidents as much as possible,” said ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. “It’s intended to have a positive effect in terms of reducing the number of accidents because that site has been identified as a top accident location in Arlington. As long as people are paying attention, it [the sign] may affect their driving behavior.”
The sign is one of four the ACPD purchased from 2004-2006. It cost around $16,000, with about half of the cost being covered by grant money from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. All the messages displayed on the boards rotate and are changed after two months. Previous messages included “high accident area ahead”, “no merge area”, “safety is no accident” and “maintain safe following distance.”
The signs are mounted on trailers that can be moved around the county to warn drivers of construction zones, inform them of traffic safety campaigns or alert them to special events. The ACPD says the signs operate on deep cycle 12 volt batteries and the necessary maintenance is minimal.
Photo courtesy @CruiseInDeCarr
At National Night Out, neighbors take a stand against crime in their communities. They strengthen relationships with each other and the police officers who patrol the neighborhoods. The event is held across the country on the first Tuesday in August and is celebrating its 30th anniversary.
Arlington has events planned for the occasion at the following six locations:
- Arlington Forest Ice Cream Social — 200 block of N. Galveston Street, 7:30 p.m.–TBD
- Barcroft Community House — 800 S. Buchanan Street, 6:30–8:00 p.m.
- Fairlington Community Center — 3005 S. Abingdon Street, 6:30-8:00 p.m.
- Nauck Neighborhood at Drew Model Elementary School — 3500 S. 23rd Street, 6:30–8:00 p.m.
- Park Glen Condominium Courtyard — 800 block of S. Arlington Mill Drive, 6:30–8:00 p.m.
- Columbia Knoll Condominiums at Greenbriar Baptist Church — 5401 S. 7th Road, 6:30–8:00 p.m.
Police officers will be on hand at each of the locations to chat with neighbors and to answer questions about current crime trends. They can also answer questions about general safety and offer neighborhood-specific suggestions for staying safe.
Everyone is welcome to attend the family friendly festivities.
(Updated at 12:55 p.m.) Independence Day is on Thursday and that means fireworks stands are busy with people stocking up on items to light up the night. But before buying certain types of fireworks that could lead to an encounter with the law, check out the guidelines from the Arlington County Fire Department.
Although ACFD notes that the safest way for residents to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public display by a trained professional, it recognizes that many people will purchase their own. To avoid facing prosecution for illegal fireworks, use the following guidelines listed in the county code:
- Fireworks must have a hard-coated or slow burning fuse that measures at least one-and-a-half inches long, with a burning rate of at least four seconds.
- Fireworks that are projectiles or emit flames or sparks in excess of 12 feet are prohibited.
- Residents must be at least 18 years old to purchase fireworks.
- Arlington County uses the same guidelines as Fairfax County, which has posted an extensive list online of approved fireworks.
ACFD also refers residents to the following general safety tips for handling fireworks, compiled by FEMA and the U.S. Fire Administration:
- Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks. Sparklers, considered by many the ideal “safe” firework for the young, burn at very high temperatures and can easily ignite clothing. Children cannot understand the danger involved and cannot act appropriately in case of emergency.
- Read and follow all warnings and instructions.
- Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks. Never shoot a firework at or near another person.
- Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves, and flammable materials.
- Never try to re-light fireworks that have not fully functioned. Douse and soak them with water and throw them away.
- Keep a bucket of water handy in case of a malfunction or fire.
- Never ignite fireworks in a container, especially a glass or metal container.
- Keep unused fireworks away from firing areas.
- Store fireworks in a dry, cool place. Check instructions for special storage directions.
- Observe local laws.
- Never have any portion of your body directly over a firework while lighting.
- Don’t experiment with homemade fireworks.
Arlington County is mulling a proposal to narrow Wilson Boulevard west of George Mason Drive from four lanes to two through lanes and a center turn lane.
The proposal was conceived and endorsed by the Bluemont Civic Association (BCA) last fall, as part a recommendation to widen the sidewalks along Wilson Boulevard in the neighborhood.
The association’s “Task Force on Arterial Road Sidewalks and Pedestrian Safety” came up with the plan after considering various ways to widen the narrow sidewalks to Americans With Disabilities Act standards.
Two possible options — undergrounding utilities (thus removing utility poles that partially block the sidewalk) and acquiring additional right-of-way from private property owners along Wilson Boulevard — were rejected as too expensive and otherwise infeasible.
The solution endorsed by the task force and the BCA membership instead calls for a two-phase project that, in the first phase, would halve the number of through-lanes west of George Mason Drive while adding a center turn lane and two bike lanes.
The second phase of the proposed project would widen the sidewalks to ADA standards, while relocating the utility poles.
“Two through lanes with a center turn lane typically provides a better line of sight and safer transitions for cars entering the traffic lanes,” the presentation said. “Speeding may be reduced while maintaining the same overall travel time. Reduced crash risks for all users are expected.”
The presentation compared the Bluemont stretch of Wilson Boulevard to nearby Washington Boulevard, which has only two lanes and higher peak traffic volumes.
The seven cameras initially were scheduled to be installed in April. At that time, ARLnow.com inquired about the cameras and learned that there would be a 60 day delay. Now, we’re told the new cameras should be operational by the fall.
“We’ve come across a couple of different hurdles and it’s definitely extending our timelines. The plans the county was supposed to have didn’t come through and a private company had to come in. Some information that was needed was not on the plans provided, so they had to go to survey to get the information,” said Red Light Camera Administrator Officer Caroline Allen with the Arlington County Police Department. “Unfortunately, it’s not as smooth as we hoped it would be to get these cameras out.”
The seven traffic cameras will monitor five intersections shown to have high rates of red light violations. There will be two at Columbia Pike and Glebe Road monitoring eastbound and westbound Columbia Pike, two at Jefferson Davis Highway and S. 23rd Street monitoring northbound and southbound Jefferson Davis Highway, one at Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive monitoring eastbound Columbia Pike, one at Lee Highway and George Mason Drive monitoring westbound Lee Highway and one at Washington Blvd and Glebe Road monitoring northbound Glebe Road.
The first two cameras to be installed — those at Jefferson Davis Highway and S. 23rd — could potentially be in by July if all goes well. The remaining five are estimated to be operational by September.
“We’re still waiting on VDOT approval, then we can go ahead with setting up construction plans,” Officer Allen said.
A study released in January examined the red light cameras installed in Arlington in 2010, and found a decrease in violations at those intersections.
“You can clearly see in the videos that people are running red lights. There are some very close calls,” said Officer Allen. “It’s making an impact just based on the reductions in violations. The number has gone down dramatically.”
Intersections are chosen based on surveys examining the rates of red light violations, the number of accidents, pedestrian safety and the safety of police officers trying to apprehend violators at the intersections.
“It’s defnitely a safety aspect,” said Officer Allen. “Those [intersections] selected are not safe for drivers, not safe for pedestrians, not safe for officers trying to enforce those intersections.”
The standard one month warning period will apply for those caught running red lights at the intersections with the new cameras. After that time, violators will be ticketed.
Once the new cameras are installed, there will be another survey to examine which intersections should potentially receive red light cameras next year.
The Arlington County Police Department has released two short videos with tips for staying safe while using jogging trails and enjoying warm weather.
“Arlington has safe and beautiful trails for biking, running, and walking,” a narrator says on the jogging trail video. “As the days get longer, people of all ages spend more time outside — and this includes criminals, too.”
Tips listed on the video include:
- Try to use populated areas in the daylight hours.
- Wear light, reflective clothing.
- Try to go out with a friend.
- Make sure you bring a cell phone.
- Familiarize yourself with your trails and avoid areas you don’t know.
- If you listen to music, make sure you leave one ear open.
- Tell someone where you will be going before you leave.
- Call 911 for emergencies or, for non-emergencies, call 703-558-2222.
Recently, a dog owner in Virginia left a store only to discover police and rescue personnel surrounding her car. The two dogs she had left in the car, parked in the shade with the windows cracked for about an hour, had died. In spite of her insistence that she had just “made a mistake — a huge mistake,” the dog owner was charged with two felony counts of animal cruelty.
She didn’t know her actions would cause her dogs harm, and unfortunately for many dogs, she’s not alone. According to Alice Burton, Chief of Animal Control Animal Welfare League of Arlington, it happens more often than you might think.
“We have 62 cases in our system where our Animal Control Officers responded to a call of a dog trapped in a hot car,” Burton said. “However, the number of times it is reported is higher (probably 80) because if the dog is not in distress (panting, barking) we do not respond, but will monitor the situation. Owners that leave their pet in the vehicle could be charged with Cruelty to Animals which is a Class 1 misdemeanor.”
On a warm, sunny or even an overcast day, the average normal-muzzle dog left to wait in a parked vehicle will be in respiratory distress in 10 minutes and dead in 20. A dog with a shorter muzzle (such as a Pug or Boston Terrier) will expire in even less time.
We all want to consider our dogs part of the family. We want to take them everywhere. But dogs differ from humans in ways that, if we aren’t careful, can result in tragic accidents.
Humans and some animals (horses, for example) sweat to cool themselves. Our type of sweating allows us to expend energy over long periods while maintaining safe body function. We have endurance. We can also acclimate to warming temperatures.
Although dogs have sweat glands, too, they’re not designed for cooling. Dogs cool themselves by panting, which cools the mouth and tongue as well as the blood flowing through the head, an obviously inefficient process. They also get some extra support by finding good places to rest. They find cool surfaces to press against the thinly furred areas of their bodies.
Watch your dog when it’s hot. Outdoors, he’ll select a shady spot, maybe dig up some cool earth beneath the surface, and lie in that spot. Indoors, he’ll flop onto a cool tile floor.
A parked car collects sunlight like a solar cell. The temperature in the car rises rapidly, turning the interior into an oven. Dogs can’t say “let me out,” and we often misinterpret their body language and limitations. There is no cool earth or tile floor in a car, and the dog can’t open the door to go look for a cooler spot. As animal guardians, we need to educate ourselves on how to prevent these dangerous situations. Laws like Virginia’s are designed to help speed the education process along.
What might surprise you is that it doesn’t have to be a hot summer day to be deadly to take your dog along while you run errands. When it’s just 70 degrees outdoors, the interior of your car becomes dangerous. To help remember this, think of the “Canine Car Cutoff” — 40/70.
- When it’s 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below outside, your dog DOES NOT ride along with you.
- When it’s 70 degrees Fahrenheit or above outside, your dog DOES NOT ride along with you.
- When it’s between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s OKAY to take your dog on a ride-along where he might be unattended in your parked vehicle with access to water for short periods.
The study focused on the cameras installed in 2010 at four heavily traveled Arlington intersections — southbound Fort Myer Drive at westbound Lee Highway, northbound N. Lynn Street at eastbound Lee Highway, northbound N. Glebe Road at Fairfax Drive and westbound Washington Blvd at Lee Highway. The public was informed of the camera installation and violators were given warnings for 30 days. After the grace period, violators caught on camera received a $50 citation.
Researchers at the IIHS (which is located in Arlington) taped traffic during the warning period, one month after ticketing began and again one year later. They found that one year after ticketing began there was a marked decrease in drivers running red lights. Violations occurring at least 0.5 seconds after the light turned red were 39 percent less likely, those occurring at least 1 second after were 48 percent less likely and there was an 86 percent drop in violations occurring at least 1.5 seconds after the light changed.
“This study provides fresh evidence that automated enforcement can get drivers to modify their behavior,” says Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at IIHS and the study’s lead author. “What these numbers show is that those violations most likely to lead to a crash are reduced the most. The longer the light has been red when a violator enters an intersection, the more likely the driver is to encounter a vehicle traveling in another direction or a pedestrian.”
Traffic was also taped at four other intersections — westbound Lee Highway at Kirkwood Road, northbound N. Glebe Road at Washington Blvd, westbound Arlington Blvd at Manchester Street and eastbound Columbia Pike at S. George Mason Drive — to see if there was any spillover effect from the cameras. While there were some decreases in violations observed in areas close to cameras, they were not always deemed statistically significant.
In 2011, the first full year the four red light cameras were in operation, they brought in nearly $460,000 in revenue. That number halved in 2012, coming in at about $224,000. The camera at Southbound Fort Myer Drive and Lee Highway brought in the most revenue, with a two year total of nearly $304,000.
In April, the county plans to activate seven additional traffic cameras at five intersections shown to have high rates of violations. There will be two at Columbia Pike and Glebe Road monitoring Eastbound and Westbound Columbia Pike, two at S. 23rd Street and Jefferson Davis Highway monitoring Northbound and Southbound Jefferson Davis Highway, one at Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive monitoring Eastbound Columbia Pike, one at Lee Highway and George Mason Drive monitoring Westbound Lee Highway and one at Washington Blvd and Glebe Road monitoring Northbound Glebe Road. The standard one month warning period will apply, and violators will be ticketed after that time.