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ACPD to conduct road safety campaign as students go back to school next week

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

Arlington County police will be stepping up enforcement and a traffic safety education next week as students go back to school.

The first day of school for Arlington Public Schools is Monday, meaning more children walking, bicycling, and riding the bus around Arlington.

With back-to-school time around the corner, the police department is reminding people to follow the rules of the road. A new press release urges drivers to watch for students, follow posted speed limits — which have been lowered to 20 mph around several schools — and to put down their phones.

“Transportation safety is a shared responsibility and it is up to all of us to keep our students safe by following the rules of the road,” the release said. “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.”

The campaign will include enforcement as well as variable message boards with safety messages.

“With a little awareness and prevention, all travelers can arrive at their destinations in a timely and safe manner,” said ACPD.

The release also notes some new initiatives, including “Walking School Buses” with dedicated volunteers and adding more speed humps near schools.

“Reducing vehicle speeds is fundamental to reducing severe crashes, and speed humps are a useful tool for decreasing speeds on neighborhood roads,” the press release says. “Arlington has not added new speed humps in the last decade. The County plans to reintroduce speed humps through a limited pilot focused on reducing speeds in school slow zones where the introduction of 20 mph speed limits has not resulted in lower speeds.”

“The pilot will begin at three sites: S. Lang Street near Gunston Middle School, S. Queen Street near Hoffman Boston Elementary, and 19th Street N. near Cardinal Elementary,” the release continues. “The pilot will assess speeds and operations before and after the introduction of the tactical speed humps, as well as community input. Additional speed hump sites may be considered in additional school zones following the initial installations.”

More, below, from ACPD.

With students returning to the classroom on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023, 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 is 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.

Transportation Safety Tips

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.
  • Do not 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 seatbelts.
  • 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

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.

Vision Zero Advancements to Protect Students and Other Travelers

On July 16, 2019, the Arlington County Board adopted a resolution committing to Vision Zero, a transportation safety program which seeks to evolve beyond reactive responses to traffic deaths to implement a goals-based, multi-disciplinary approach which shifts the focus from individual incidents to system-wide improvement. More information about Arlington’s recent Vision Zero initiatives, managed by the Department of Environmental Services, is included below.

School Zone Retrofits & School Slow Zones

Now in the third year of a five-year action plan, Arlington’s Vision Zero initiative continues to emphasize safe travels to and from schools as key to the mission of eliminating all significant traffic injuries in the County by 2030.

This June, the County completed an additional 14 school “Slow Zone” retrofits, following 13 in 2022. Slow Zones feature lower speed limits (either at arrival/dismissal times for areas with flashing beacons or, permanently, 20 miles per hour in school slow zones), school crossing signs, high visibility crosswalks and special pavement markings on roads within 600 feet of school access points. The County is currently collaborating with all remaining schools in the County to plan the last batch of school zone retrofits and school Slow Zones to be installed in early 2024.

Note: Even when schools are not in session, 20 mph Slow Zone speed limits are still in effect.

Traffic Gardens

Arlington County, in partnership with Prince George’s County, Md., recently published the region’s first guide to traffic gardens, special scaled park-like spaces used for teaching children how to safely navigate road hazards while walking or biking. The “One Traffic Garden at a Time” guide was funded by a grant from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. The County is collaborating with APS to identify ways to integrate the traffic garden concept and guidelines into school curriculum or activities.

Walking School Buses

Featured on the CBS Evening News, Arlington’s Us Bus group walk-to-school initiative continues to expand. The walking school bus concept, a unique partnership of the Commission on Aging, the 55+ Program, WalkArlington, Virginia Safe Routes to Schools and the Arlington Community Foundation, welcomes adult volunteers to act as guides.

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