Another Crash Near Claremont Traffic Circle

by Katie Pyzyk November 4, 2011 at 11:45 am 5,272 65 Comments

Less than seven months after a car ran into his house in the Claremont neighborhood, Patrick Lee is dealing with a similar problem. Somebody hit his car overnight, likely while trying to speed through the crash-prone traffic circle at S. Chesterfield Road and S. Dinwiddie Street.

Lee said his father woke him around 5:00 a.m. asking what happened to his car. That’s when he went outside to find the banged-up vehicle. The other driver left nothing behind except a few shards from a smashed headlight, which Lee hopes will eventually help police find the perpetrator.

Lee’s car had been parked on the street in front of his neighbor’s house when it was hit. He explained that three houses on the block, including his, had all recently sustained property damage from vehicles speeding through the traffic circle. The next-door neighbors escaped a car slamming into their home when the vehicle rammed a tree in the front yard instead.

Lee says when his home was hit in April, the person behind the wheel didn’t end up paying for repairs. A loophole voided her insurance because she uses the vehicle for work. That meant Lee and his parents had to pay about $5,000 out of pocket for repairs. The total estimated cost for damage, both outside and inside, ended up being about $28,000.

Neighbors are concerned not only for their own property and safety, but also because of the traffic circle’s proximity to Wakefield High School.

“I drive for a living and spend a lot of time in traffic,” Lee said. “Never, not anywhere in Northern Virginia, Thailand or other countries, never have I seen such a poorly maintained and dangerous intersection next to a school.”

The intersection has two stop signs and two yield signs for drivers entering the circle. People in the neighborhood say drivers speed through the circle without stopping or even slowing down. Lee mentioned that the layout of the intersection has been changed several times, but a good solution has yet to be found.

“You really have to be flying through these stop signs for something like this to happen,” Lee said. “This is right next to a school and everybody is going 45 to 50 miles per hour and not stopping.”

Lee said he talked to the responding officers about fixing the intersection when his house was hit in April. Although he doesn’t have an easy solution, he said a good start would be a four-way stop. In the meantime, Lee is going to contact his insurance company about his car, and hopes to find the driver who hit it.

Courtesy photos

  • Arlingtoninan

    This is terrible. I hope they find who hit the guy.

  • jack

    “Lee says when his home was hit in April, the person behind the wheel didn’t end up paying for repairs.A loophole voided her insurance because she uses the vehicle for work.”

    Wow, that is some BS.

    • Ding ding

      Have to sue the person directly, or have your homeowners insurance pay for the repairs and then they can subrogate and go after the idiot.

      • drax

        Yeah, I was gonna say, it’s not like you’re off the hook just because your insurance is off the hook.

    • JimPB

      Why no suit against the driver for damages? Voided insurance does not eliminate the driver’s financial responsibility.

      • Quoth the Raven

        Suing (and winning) is a lot different from actually collecting any money, though.

  • South Arlington Former

    I lived near this intersection in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This circle was put in at that time, with heavy lobbying from the residents who live near there. Prior to the circle being there, students and other drivers used to take that intersection at a high rate of speed as they went past Wakefield and down the hill. As I recall, there were numerous accidents under the old configuration as well. After it was put in, the accidents ceased.

    The problem now is the drivers. Not the intersection.

  • South Awwwlington

    Seriously, who does this *hit? I hope they find the creep and haul their butt to jail. The hit n’ run rate in Arlington is out of control. It almost seems like there are no driving rules and regs.

    • NorthArlingTim

      It certainly is out of control. I totally feel for this guy. I’ve had all sorts of damage done to vehicles, including one that was totalled, that were *parked* on Arlington County streets. ACPD keeps dismissing my hit ‘n’ run reports. I hope they get whoever hit his car AND house. Sheesh.

      • South Awwwlington

        Approximately two weeks ago, there was a car parked on Four Mile Run, worse condition that this. Not sure if it was a hit and run but it was definitely totaled. Can you imagine waking up in the morning, heading to work to find your car (that was parked at your house) demolished?

        If this happened to me, ACPD would be lucky if anything were left of that driver when I were done…then again, fools like this aren’t worth risking the trouble.

      • Suzy

        It happened to me too! I was parked on Clarendon at a meter and was awakened Sunday morning by an Arlington County sheriff knocking on my door. A distracted driver totaled my brand new car as well as another car.

        • Arlingtonienne

          Been there too…we had a car totaled in front of our house in the Lee-Harrison area. Fortunately an observant neighbor watched the whole thing happen, jumped in his car, and got a licesnse plate and address for the yokel so we got her insurance information and the car was covered…still it was an older, paid off car and the check by no means covered buying a new car. Ugh.

  • Jon

    I hope he reported the first person to the state of Virginia as being uninsured and brought him to court. Also, I can only assume that since it was “being used for work” that the insurance company didn’t pay out collision on the vehicle either, right?

  • Quoth the Raven

    I’m always stunned at how fast some people drive and their utter non-awareness (or non-caring) of where they are. Case in point — Halloween night, there were tons of drivers absolutely FLYING right past the Madison Manor bonfire. Kids absolutely everywhere and these a-holes are so incredible important that they have to drive like maniacs to get to their destinations.

    • Clarendon

      I think it’s cultural habituation. Driving is such a common,everyday experience for so many they forget what an unnatural and dangerous object they are responsible for. I see people talking, texting, eating, drinking, writing, shaving, gawking, and all sorts of things when in their car driving. They feel they are in their living room. The comfort level and quietness of th modern car makes it even more easy to forget what you are doing (until something bad happens).

      • Bluemontsince1961


        I think you hit the proverbial nail on the head!

  • Thes

    I don’t think I understand how the kind of person who is willing to do a hit-and-run in the middle of the night is going to be at all deterred by a new 4-way stop.

    • charlie

      a four-way stop sign would keep the vehicles in the street and out of the parking lane as they are forced to do with circles.

  • John Fontain

    Maybe they need to add or remove a slip lane.

  • Carl

    4-way stop seems like the best option. I can not think of any in Arlington though.

    • 5555624

      There are plenty in Arlington. (8th Street S & S Veitch St and S Pershing Dr, S 3rd St, & S Wakefield St to name two I deal with a lot.)

      The problem with these “traffic circles” is that they were put in after the fact, often without sufficient space. Drivers need to slow down — the reason for the circles — but won’t.

      • Carl

        Well good, so there is precedent. Why not try it at this intersection?

        • Arlingtonienne

          HA! As a resident on the corner of a busy four way stop I am on the phone monthly with ACPD trying to increase the number of patrols to our intersection because the number of a**hats who blow through this intersection (which is adjacent to a school bus stop no less) is astounding. In fact, they were out this morning and nailed at least one person.

        • 5555624

          Because we let nimrods on the road. Too many people operating a vehicle on the roads have no idea what “STOP” means. (Yes, I phrased it that way to include cyclists.)

  • South Awwwlington

    Does anyone know, will VDMV issue plates without proof of insurance? When I lived in DC, I recall the DMV stating they would reclaim any tags on vehicles reported to have lapsed insurance.

    • jslanger

      I forgot to pay my car insurance a couple months back (oops!!). Got a letter from the DMV telling me to go online and give them proof of insurance or return the plates. Needless to say I went online immediately, got my insurance reinstated, and let the DMV know I had it. And the insurance company is the one that lets the DMV know about it too.

  • JimPB

    Time for ALL-OUT speed control:

    — speed cameras (with night vision lenses if necessary) with vigorous follow through and serious consequences.


    — flashing yellow caution lights and a set of speed bumps

    • Johnny Utah


    • Do It

      Sounds good to me. Expensive, but not if the ticket costs $500. Stoplight and camera at every major intersection.

    • Bill

      The Virginia legislature has specifically stopped Arlington from using speed camera/detection devices. The bogus rationale is that Arlington will lower the speed limits (which Arlington can not do w/o State approval) to raise revenue.

    • Rick


    • claremontresident

      How about automatic laser cannons.

      Look, there is a stop sign coming up from chesterfield and the other direction is a right hand 90 degree turn. Someone going at speed that went through a stop sign and traffic circle may also go through flashing yellow lights and speed bumps.

  • shirleyton

    I’m confused as to how the traffic circle is involved. If the school is on the left, then the car was parked facing the circle– which suggests the car who hit him was coming from the intersection of Dinwiddle and George Mason (and the construction area by the Wakefield Student / Pool parking lot), heading towards the circle.

    I am not very good with direction — I don’t see the map in my head if that makes sense.So any clarification would be great. 🙂

    • shirleyton

      and i just realized it’s likely b/c he is parked on chesterfield. sorry.

  • Shaggy

    It wasn’t me

    • Rick

      But she caught you on the counter

  • Choogirl

    This is why Arlington should put in speed cameras and speed bumps. I’ve nearly been hit jogging/walking the dogs/going to the store enough times to know this isn’t just a property damage problem in one spot.

  • JimPB

    Why isn’t the name and address of the driver (previous accident) published? This should be public information.

    One of the consequences of causing a reckless driving accident should be becoming known as such a perpetrator.

    • Carl

      What do you intend to do once you find out where that person lives?

      • Carl jr

        I had to beat them to death with their own shoes.

        • Rick

          The shopkeep and his son, and a bengal tiger

  • Bender

    Where is the evidence that the driver was speeding?

    Based on the damage shown, that is entirely consistent with a collision at less than 25 mph, the speed limit for a residential area.

    Moreover, based on the location of the damage, this was a direct rear-end collision, not a glancing or clipping of one corner. That would indicate that the hitting vehicle was in the far right position on the road.

    Why would a moving vehicle be on the far right in the parking lane, rather than close to the center line in the travelling lane? Because of the obstruction of the traffic circle. An obstruction that necessarily forces everyone to move from the travelling lane on one side to the far right on the other side. Without the circle, the moving vehicle would have remained in the traveling lane near the center line.

    It is not surprising that there are collisions near these circles. They are entirely foreseeable.

    If they are interested in safety, they need to take out the circle and install a four-way stop instead.

    • t-bone

      people blow thru 4 way stops all the time, risking a broadside collision and the bad injuries that can cause.

      • One better than you

        Happens at 2 way stops all the time too.

        • Bluemontsince1961

          Shoot, all too often in this area, stop signs seem to be interpreted by some drivers as a suggestion! Doesn’t seem to matter if it is a 4-way stop, 3-way stop, or 2-way stop. I was nearly T-boned by some maniac a couple of months ago at N. 22nd and George Mason (by the post office), who didn’t even slow down or look, just kept right on going onto Mason. If I’d been one second later, the loon would have plowed into me. I’ve seen this situation happen way too many times for my comfort level. I often wonder if this craziness contributes to road rage. It certainly ups the stress level in local driving.

          • NoVapologist

            I live near a 4-way stop. Only ~10% of people actually come to a full stop. Most of the others might slow down to 10-15mph. And I would say the majority of people making right turns slow down no more than they would if there were not a stop sign.

            The county seemingly tries all sorts of stuff like traffic circles, slip lane removals, curb extensions, intersection redesigns, and speed humps rather than any actual traffic enforcement. Too bad.

      • Steve

        I used to film Prius drivers with obama stickers running stop signs and sent the videos to the police.

        • South ArlJD

          Yes, I see, because ONLY Priuses with Obama stickers would run stop signs. You’re already leading in my “stupidest comment of the month” contest. Something this imbecilic will be hard to beat.

        • charlie

          steve, you are so right. Prius drivers have taken the place of pinto, vega and saturn drivers as being the absolute worse. how does a car attract such bad drivers. it is amazing. totally with you.

    • claremontresident

      This took some seriously bad driving to hit this vehicle so close to the traffic circle. 25 MPH from a dead stop or a right hand 90 degree turn in less than a house from the intersection.

  • Tabby

    That driver (and the one who hit Lee’s house in April) should eat a bag of d–ks.

    So should the wanker who put a nasty scrap on my bumper in the garage across from Whole Foods.

    • What?

      A nasty scrap? Like a piece of old bacon?

  • DSK

    Not one post about automatic transmissions? Slow day…

  • Anne

    I live in a house on a corne lot where there is a traffic circle. Circles not only don’t work, they make these intersections much more dangerous. I have had numerous cars find their way onto my front lawn. The solution? Remove the circles and make it a four way stop

  • BoredHouseWife

    people blow by that circle engrossed in a phone call driving with one hand.

  • Arbin

    A friend who lives near the traffic circle at N. Edison St and 30th St has had his vehicle smashed twice (that I know of). It may be that traffic circles are an invitation to do some fancy and fast driving instead of doing a calm drive.

  • Narlington

    and yet another reason not to go to the wakefield high school area.

  • barcroft girl

    I can see how cars end up in the yards when they are going around a circle and someone enters the circle in error.

    I was almost hit at Henderson and N 2nd by a woman who cut me off entering the circle. And would you believe she had a phone in her hand the whole time?!

    I work out at Wakefield HS most weekday mornings. At 6-6:30AM it is pitch black outside and cars blow through the Claremont circle at high rates of speed. I’m not surprised by the damage they have caused.

    • James

      The traffic circles in the Lyon Village area are just as dangerous..they need to get rid of them…harder to see around them.

  • vince

    I live off of Walter Reed, but drive through this circle on a regular basis to visit friends on George Mason. There are many occasions when cars forget the stop signs and just run through the circle, and worse, I have had cars bypass the circle, meaning just turn left down Dinwiddie, and barely miss other cars and cyclists. Unfortunately, it is only a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt or killed at this intersection. This result usually ends up with a change in the layout.

    • South ArlJD

      Problem is there are NO stop signs on Dinwiddie at this intersection, which I don’t understand because quite often you can just be starting through the intersection when some car comes barreling up the hill on Dinwiddie and you have to stop and wait for them to go through. In addition, the darn thing’s next to a school, meaning that many of the drivers are young and inexperienced and also prone to take chances. Quite a few don’t seem to be aware that once another driver is in the circle they can’t just jump in there also. There is no signage around the area warning the approaching driver of how to behave with traffic circle, meaning that people are not really aware of who has the right of way and what they’re supposed to do once they encounter the circle.

  • Dave in SA

    Will ACPD actually look for this car? Or, as implied by the victim, he has to find it.

  • James

    They should check the traffic cameras around 2-5 am in the area and see if they spot any cars with front end damage…most likely if they do, that’s the person that did it.

  • Kristinn

    As someone who owns a home right next to this traffic circle, I’d much prefer to see our street become a cul-de-sac. Cut off the stupid circle completely. No 4-way stop; no 2-way stop — no using our street as a way to avoid Leesburg Pike. But folks living on adjacent streets probably wouldn’t agree…

  • Department of Environmental Services

    Installed in the early 1990s, the S. Dinwiddie Street and S. Chesterfield Road traffic circle was approved by the County Board as part of the 1991 Claremont Traffic Management Plan and funded by the Neighborhood Conservation program. Prior to the installation of the circle, there were frequent crashes at the intersection due to the significant traffic volume on both S. Dinwiddie Street and Chesterfield Road.

    Since the traffic circle was put in place, the number and severity of the crashes has decreased. For a five-year period from Dec. 2005 to Dec. 2010 (the most current crash data available) there were five reported accidents crashes at, or near, the intersection – a good safety record. Staff will investigate the more recent incidents and determine if any additional measures are needed.


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