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Drivers may be required to stop for longer while pedestrians cross the road

A runner uses a rapid flashing beacon to cross N. Park Drive (staff photo)

In a bid to increase pedestrian safety, Arlington County may require drivers stay stopped for longer at crosswalks.

The Arlington County Board is set to consider on Saturday changing its code so that drivers will have to stop when a pedestrian enters an adjacent travel lane and heads their way. Currently, drivers need only yield right of way when a pedestrian enters their lane.

The change follows on a revision to state law that went into effect on July 1. The local change is another way Arlington aims to eliminate serious and fatal crashes — particularly for pedestrians, who made up one-third of serious or fatal crashes between 2018 and 2022.

“Pedestrians are one of our most vulnerable road users because their bodies are not surrounded with a metal frame and airbags,” a county report said. “It is critical for drivers to look for, be aware of, and stop for pedestrians to help get to Arlington’s goal of Vision Zero transportation deaths or serious injuries by 2030.”

In Arlington, the change would apply to local and state roads, says Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien. This includes major arterials that see the county’s highest concentration of serious crashes, such as Arlington, Langston and Washington boulevards and Glebe Road.

The county says the intent of its ordinance change is to reflect wording changes in state law.

This March, the state put a finer point on what drivers are required to do when they see a pedestrian looking to cross.

Before, drivers were required to “yield right-of-way to pedestrians by stopping” when pedestrians are crossing in front of the drivers.

Now, state code says drivers “shall stop” when a pedestrian is within the driver’s lane or within an adjacent lane and approaching the driver’s lane. Drivers are required to stay stopped until the pedestrian has passed their lane.

Any driver who does not stop is guilty of a traffic infraction and can face a $100-$500 fine, according to the new law.

Staff intends to inform the public of the new law via a press release, emails, and social media posts on NextDoor, Twitter and Facebook, per the report.

O’Brien says new signage will be also added.

“We are working on plans to make signage and marking changes to be in compliance with the new code,” she said.

The law also lets localities require pedestrians and cyclists to stop before crossing a highway at crosswalks without signals or face a fine of up to $100.

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