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ACPD stepping up traffic enforcement for start of school next week

A police officer keeps watch during Walk and Bike to School Day 2012 at Oakridge Elementary School (staff photo)

Signs and stepped-up enforcement are part of the police plan for bringing Arlington students back to the classrooms safely.

In advance of the first day of school for Arlington Public Schools students on Monday, the Arlington County Police Department is encouraging drivers to be especially cautious on local roads.

“On Monday, August 29, 2022, there will soon be an increase in children walking, bicycling, and riding the bus to schools throughout Arlington,” ACPD said in a press release this week. “Transportation safety is a shared responsibility and it’s up to all of us to keep our students safe by following the rules of the road.”

The police department says it will “conduct a high-visibility transportation safety campaign in and around school zones and bus stops to ensure the trip to class is as safe as possible.” That includes enforcement and electronic signs “placed along roadways in Arlington to raise awareness about the start of the school year and to share important safety messaging.”

Police noted that last fall the Arlington County Board voted to establish 13 “School Slow Zones” around public and private schools in the county. The zones reduce the speed limit to 20 mph on roads within 600 feet of the school.

The department also reminded drivers that the law requires drivers to stop behind a school bus that is loading or unloading passengers, except when traveling in the opposite direction on a divided highway.

An ACPD press release with safety and traffic law reminders, along with a new “Back to School Safety PSA” video starring APS Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán and Arlington police chief Andy Penn video, are below.

With students returning to the classroom on Monday, August 29, 2022, there will soon be an increase in children walking, bicycling, and riding the bus to schools throughout Arlington. Transportation safety is a shared responsibility and it’s up to all of us to keep our students safe by following the rules of the road. The Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) will conduct a high-visibility transportation safety campaign in and around school zones and bus stops to ensure the trip to class is as safe as possible.

Variable message boards will be placed along roadways in Arlington to raise awareness about the start of the school year and to share important safety messaging. With a little awareness and prevention, all travelers can arrive at their destinations in a timely and safe manner.

Vision Zero Advancements to Protect Students and Other Travelers

In November 2021, the Arlington County Board unanimously voted to approve the creation of “School Slow Zones,” which reduced traffic speeds around 13 schools across Arlington. Schools are a key focus area for Vision Zero in Arlington – a nationally recognized strategy to eliminate all fatalities and severe injuries no matter the means of travel, while increasing safety and mobility.

School Slow Zones are permanent sections of neighborhood streets within 600 feet of an access point to a school that allows for a maximum speed limit of 20-mile-per-hour. Arlington County and Arlington County Public School’s staff worked to identify public and private schools that would be used to demonstrate the initiative.

Officers will be conducting enforcement throughout the County, including within School Slow Zones. Motorists are encouraged to refamiliarize themselves with the location of these zones, obey posted speed limits and watch for other travelers.

Drivers are reminded to:

  • Obey posted speed limits which may change during school zone times.
  • Avoid distracted driving and keep your attention on the road.
    • Holding a hand-held communication device while driving is illegal in Virginia. Violations could result in a fine of up to $125 for a first offense.
  • Watch for students walking and riding bikes to school.
  • Don’t pass a stopped school bus loading or unloading passengers.
    • On a two-lane road, vehicles traveling in both directions must stop.
    • On a multi-lane paved road, vehicles traveling in both directions must stop.
    • On a divided highway, vehicles behind the bus must stop. Vehicles traveling in the opposite direction may proceed with caution.
    • When approaching from any direction at a 4-way intersection, vehicles must stop for school buses with flashing red lights and an extended stop sign.
  • Have all vehicle occupants wear their seat belts.
  • Pick-up and drop-off students in designated locations.

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 school crossing guards and/or Arlington Public Schools staff members.
  • Always walk on designated sidewalks or paths, never along the side of a road.

Bicyclists are reminded to:

  • Wear your helmet.
    • Helmets are required for riders ages 14 and younger but are recommended for all.
  • Keep right and ride with traffic.
  • Secure your bicycle with a lock when not in use.

General Safety Tips for Students

Back-to-school is an opportune time to remind students about important ways to help keep them safe while out in the community. Parents and guardians are also encouraged to role-play possible situations with students and discuss personal safety and awareness tips.

Ensure students:

  • Know their address, telephone number and how to contact a parent or guardian.
  • Remain aware of their surroundings.
  • Walk or bike with another person, whenever possible. Stay in well-lit areas.
  • Limit the use of devices that may distract them.
  • Avoid engaging with or answering questions from strangers.
  • Immediately report anything that makes them feel unsafe to a trusted adult.

Engaging with Arlington’s Youth

ACPD remains committed to engaging with Arlington’s youth through proactive community-based outreach strategies focused on educational initiatives and relationship-building to encourage positive youth development. Youth Outreach Officers (YOU) work to develop effective prevention and mitigation strategies to address crime and quality of life issues involving youth while working collaboratively with County agencies and community organizations on community-based activities and programs.

Youth Outreach and Patrol Officers continue to respond, as appropriate, when police are contacted regarding a school-based incident. Incidents can be reported for investigation by calling the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222 or 9-1-1 in an emergency. Applicable non-emergency incidents can also be reported using the Online Police Reporting System or by calling the Alternate Reporting Unit (ARU) at 703-228-4300.

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