Arlington, VA

AAA Mid-Atlantic is warning drivers to be extra mindful on Monday after Daylight Saving Time kicks in.

The annual scheduled clock hopping is happening on Sunday (March 11), “springing forward” an hour starting at 2 a.m.

Only 31.9 percent of Washingtonians get seven hours of sleep per night, according to AAA, and it can take two weeks for the body to adjust to the time turning.

Even losing one hour’s sleep can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm enough to cause damage. Health risks include strokes, heart attacks, obesity, diabetes, and workplace- or traffic-related accidents.

Drowsy driving in particular is a concern in AAA’s eyes citing the “major threat on area roadways Monday” morning and calling it “one of the most underreported traffic safety issues.”

The automotive organization’s warning points to its own drowsy driving research.

Remarkably, the percentage of crashes involving drowsiness is nearly eight times higher than federal estimates indicate, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The difficulty in detecting drowsiness following a crash makes drowsy driving one of the most underreported traffic safety issues. The new research provides an unprecedented analysis of in-vehicle dashcam video from more than 700 crashes, confirming that the danger of drowsy driving soars above official estimates. This weekend, millions of drivers will have difficulty springing forward. Come Monday, the prevalence of short sleep will loom large.

In the study, researchers examined video of drivers’ faces in the three minutes leading up to a crash.
Using a scientific measure linking the percentage of time a person’s eyes are closed to their level of drowsiness, the researchers determined that 9.5 percent of all crashes and 10.8 percent of crashes resulting in significant property damage involved drowsiness. Federal estimates indicate drowsiness is a factor in only one to two percent of crashes.

Even so, 35 percent of drivers in the United States sleep less than the recommended minimum of seven hours daily, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In a recent related AAA Foundation survey, nearly all drivers (96 percent) say they view drowsy driving as a serious threat to their safety and a completely unacceptable behavior. However, 29 percent admitted to driving when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open at some point in the past month.

Drowsy driving warning signs include struggling to keep your eyes open, lane drifting, and not remembering the last few miles driven.

To avoid drowsy driving, AAA recommends drivers travel when they normally would travel, avoid heavy foods and other sleep-inducing medications, and, for longer trips, schedule breaks every two hours for every 100 miles driven with an alert passenger who can take turns driving.

Photo via Flickr/David Giambarresi

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High winds are expected to wallop the Washington region tonight through Saturday and officials are asking the public to take precautions.

Wind gusts as strong as 60-70 miles per hour are possible from Friday from 4 a.m. through midnight, forecasters say. Wind gusts over 30 miles per hour are expected generally from tonight into Sunday.

The Virginia Department of Transportation issued its own advisory, warning that roadways could be dangerous and that road closures could be possible due to downed trees and power lines or other road debris. Crews will begin working overnight to fix any infrastructure damage, the agency said.

VDOT issued a warning to drivers, and a reminder to:

  • Check road closures before you travel, and look at potential alternate routes.
  • Reduce your speeds and assume there may be a road obstruction ahead.
  • Move over for responders with blue, red, and amber lights, including VDOT and utility crews.
  • Always use your headlights, remember wipers on, lights on is the law.
  • Ensure gas tanks are full, and have a good emergency kit. Here’s how: www.ready.gov/car.

AAA Mid-Atlantic issued its own warning, including a reminder to treat non-working traffic signals as a four-way stop.

“Motorists who venture out during the Nor’easter should brace themselves for driving into tempestuous side winds, which would buffet them off course and off the road, and into blustery head winds and turbulent tail winds,” AAA said. “Drive defensively or stay off the roads until the mercurial storm passes over.”

More advisories from the agencies via social media:

https://twitter.com/VaDOTNOVA/status/969252081319202816

https://twitter.com/ReadyArlington/status/969322520582205440

File photo

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Morning Notes

Reminder: Dogs Not Allowed Off-Leash in Arlington — “In the last year, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington received 260 reports of dogs running at large and more than 120 sightings of strays. Being off-leash in Arlington is only allowed on private property and in designated dog parks.” [Arlington County]

AAA: Gas Prices Up Due to Harvey — The ongoing disaster along the Gulf in Texas is causing gas prices to rise in the D.C. area, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. [Alexandria News]

Tranquil Space Sold — Publicly-traded yoga studio chain YogaWorks has acquired Tranquil Space, a small studio operator with two locations, in Arlington and D.C. [MarketWatch]

Rainy, Cool Morning — It feels fall-like outside this morning, with cool temperatures and a soaking rain. [Twitter]

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After a spate of credit card skimming devices being discovered at gas stations across the region this year, including in Arlington, AAA Mid-Atlantic is warning motorists to be extra cautious when paying at the pump.

Several gas stations in Cherrydale as well as a Shell station on S. Four Mile Run Drive appeared to have been hit by the skimmers earlier this year. The skimmers are installed inside pumps and ATMs and copy customers’ card information for fraudulent use by criminals, who use Bluetooth technology to receive the stolen credit card numbers in seconds.

Anyone who suspects a skimmer in their gas pump can check by jiggling the credit card slot to see if it is askew or asymmetrical.

More from John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs:

The caper may crop up, lawmen forewarn, in other counties, cities and communities across the Greater Washington area, as dodgy perpetrators try to stay steps ahead of the reach of the law’s long arm and catch local consumers unawares as they purchase fuel. To safeguard your debit or credit card, and protect your finances, only buy gas at stations that affix security seals to the fuel dispenser. Always remember the motto ‘Let the buyer beware’ (caveat emptor) when making a gas transaction.

This year, skimmers have been discovered in parts of Maryland as well as Alexandria, Bailey’s Crossroads, Centreville, Tysons Corner, Vienna, and in areas around Prince William and Frederick counties. In the last 12 months, AAA said, Fairfax County Police have removed “21 individual skimmers from 15 different locations.”

AAA gave the following advice to those using self-service gas pumps:

  • Park at pumps close to the front door of the gas station if possible. Criminals tend to install the skimmers on an outside pump farthest from where the clerks can see them.
  • Check for Bluetooth skimmers embedded inside pumps at a gas station using your cell phone. Turn on your Bluetooth setting and look for a series of random numbers and letters. It may be a telltale sign a Bluetooth-enabled skimming device is interleaved into the gas kiosk. Do not connect to the Bluetooth device.
  • Make sure the gas pump panel is closed and inspect the card reader at the pump. Look for signs of tampering. If it looks like it’s been opened or its security tape has been broken, inform the cashier and do not use that pump.
  • Pay for your gas inside the store.
  • Use cash instead of your credit card.
  • Monitor your bank statements constantly. Look for overdraft notices. Skimming criminals may wait months before using your information and then go on a sudden spending spree.

Photo via Google Maps

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HOV lanes of I-395 blocked near Pentagon during car fireClocks will “fall back” an hour early Sunday morning, as Daylight Saving Time ends.

The annual autumnal time change is associated primarily with earlier sunsets, but fatigue due to disrupted sleep patterns is another side effect.

Between darkness suddenly occurring during the duration of the evening rush hour, and bleary-eyed drivers, the time change can actually be a safety hazard on the roads.

AAA Mid-Atlantic this week issued a lengthy press release that included the following tips to stay safe over the next couple of days.

Time shift safety tips for pedestrians:

  • See and be seen – drivers need to see you to avoid you.
  • Make eye contact with drivers when crossing streets.
  • Wear bright colors or reflective clothing and/or accessories at night.
  • Carry a flashlight when walking in the dark.
  • Cross only at intersections or crosswalks. Look left, right and left again and only cross when it is clear.
  • Do not jaywalk or cross between parked cars.
  • Evaluate the distance and speed of oncoming traffic before you step out into the street.
  • Avoid walking in traffic where there are no sidewalks or crosswalks. If you have to walk on a road that does not have sidewalks, walk facing traffic.
  • Do not let umbrellas or jacket hoods block your view of approaching traffic.
  • While walking, pocket the cell phone and avoid listening to your music player at a volume that prohibits you from hearing approaching danger.

Time change tips for drivers:

  • Pay attention and eliminate all distractions including cell phones and car clocks that are off an hour!
  • Remember to yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks. Do not pass vehicles stopped at crosswalks.
  • Watch for children and families in neighborhoods and along school bus routes, at intersections, and when backing out of driveways.
  • Turn on your headlights. Make yourself more visible during early morning and evening hours.
  • Keep vehicle headlights and windows (inside and out) clean.
  • Do not use high beams when other cars or pedestrians are around.
  • Teen drivers should exercise extra caution.
  • Inspect all lights and bulbs and replace burned out ones. Clean road grime or clouding from all lenses.
  • Slow down during rain and fog.

The rest of the press release, after the jump.

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Fourth of July 2015 fireworks (Flickr pool photo by Rob Cannon)Arlington County will close libraries, courts, community centers, government offices and some roads across town Monday for the Independence Day holiday.

Metered parking will not be enforced, according to county officials, but trash and recycling will operate on a normal schedule.

Arlington County Police will also close several roads, including some major arteries, throughout the area to facilitate festive Fourth of July crowds. From ACPD:

6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

  • Memorial Bridge / Memorial Circle

1:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

  • Marshall Drive from Route 110 to N. Meade Street
  • N. Meade St. from 14th St. to Marshall Dr.

3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

  • Meade Street from Marshall Drive to Route 50 (access to the Ft. Myer Heights neighborhood will be from the Rhodes Street bridge)
  • Exit ramp from westbound Route 50 to N. Lynn Street (Rosslyn exit)
  • Exit ramp from eastbound Route 50 to N. Meade Street (Rosslyn exit)
  • Long Bridge Dr. from Boundary Channel Dr. to 10th Street S.

8:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

  • Eastbound Route 50 at Washington Blvd. All traffic diverted from Rt. 50 on ramps to East and West Washington Blvd.
  • Eastbound 10th St. N.  ramp to eastbound Rt. 50 will be closed, all traffic diverted to westbound Rt. 50
  • Courthouse Rd. ramp to eastbound Rt. 50 will be closed, all traffic diverted to westbound Rt. 50 or 10th St. N.
  • Pershing Dr. at Rt. 50 will only be allowed westbound
  • Eastbound N. Fairfax Drive from N. Pierce Street to N. Fort Myer Drive
  • Columbia Pike between S. Orme Street and S. Joyce St.
  • Joyce Street between Army Navy Drive and Columbia Pike

Police have also warned that street parking around the Iwo Jima Memorial, Long Bridge Park and the Air Force Memorial will be restricted for the holiday.

Residents planning on skipping town for the holiday should take note: A record-breaking 1 million D.C. area residents will leave for the long weekend, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic, with most of them driving. Reagan National Airport should also be busy; about 77,000 residents are expected to leave town on a plane.

The lowest fuel prices in a decade and the holiday falling on a Monday are driving those record-breaking numbers, the AAA said in a press release.

For those staying in Arlington, we’ve published a list of local fireworks viewing spots.

Flickr pool photo by Rob Cannon

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Traffic on I-66

If you’re planning on leaving home this Memorial Day weekend, you’re not alone.

According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, nearly 966,000 D.C. area residents will travel at least 50 miles for the holiday.

This is the highest travel estimate in the last 11 years and it represents a nearly two percent increase over the 951,000 residents who traveled at this time last year, according to AAA.

The heaviest congestion on area roads is predicted to occur Thursday afternoon between 5-6 p.m.

“The great American road trip is back due to cheaper gas prices. We’re seeing this play out for Memorial Day, with a projected 869,600 people in the Washington metro planning to drive to their Memorial Day destinations,” said AAA’s John Townsend, in a press release.

Gas prices this year are noticeably lower compared to previous years with the national average at $2.29 a gallon, 45 cents cheaper than a year ago. Prices in the D.C. area are also down, averaging $2.28 a gallon, 41 cents cheaper.

Along with the roads, air travel is also expected to increase with a predicted number of 69,100 people expected to fly, a 1.7 percent increase from last year’s numbers.

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I-395 is backed up from an accident near the 14th Street BridgePeople generally like Daylight Saving Time and its extra hour of daylight at night. Here’s one thing you may not like: extra drowsy drivers on the road.

AAA Mid-Atlantic says losing an hour of sleep Sunday morning could produce more drowsy driving all week.

The organization issued the following press release on Friday.

Wake up sleepyhead. Blame it on old Benjamin Franklin. The sleepiness begins again at 2 a.m. this coming Sunday. The time shift in the wee hours can break the sleep cycle and the “grogginess can persist all day” in a nation that already doesn’t get adequate sleep. Insomnia is deadly behind the wheel. Nearly 1 in 3 drivers (32 percent) confessed they were so tired they drove drowsy during the previous 30 days, according to the latest research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The number of nodding drivers on the road might increase during next Monday’s commute times, the day after the biannual transition to and from Daylight Saving Time.

The “first six days of daylight saving time can prove dangerous for drivers and other highway users,” some research suggests. However, other researchers say their studies demonstrated “that transitions into and out of daylight saving time did not increase the number of traffic road accidents.”

“The shift in time can engender a shift in circadian rhythm. Drowsiness can slow reaction time as much as driving drunk, and it can be just as dangerous, research shows. Too many people drive under the influence of sleep,” said Tom Calcagni, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Director of Public and Government Affairs.

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Traffic on the GW Parkway (file photo)“Enough is enough,” AAA Mid-Atlantic said in a statement this afternoon, after the morning rush hour closure of the northbound GW Parkway.

The northbound lanes of the parkway were closed just past the Spout Run Parkway after a tour bus engine exploded and leaked oil and diesel fuel on the roadway — at 9:30 last night.

One lane opened reopened just before 1:00 p.m. as crews continue to try to clean up the second lane.

The auto association said the National Park Service, which manages the parkway, is either too underfunded or too inept to effectively run a major commuter route. In a statement, below, AAA says today’s closure and the recent lane closures on the corroding Memorial Bridge demonstrate the park service’s “inability to appropriately manage transportation facilities under its control.”

Enough is enough. Today we have had yet another transportation travesty in our region via the National Park Service (NPS) and its inability to appropriately manage transportation facilities under its control. The closure of the GW Parkway northbound for over 12 hours–through the morning rush–as a result of a crash that happened around 9:30 pm the night before is outrageous and cost tens of thousands of commuters this morning untold hours caught in congestion, as commuters jam packed alternative routes. This fiasco comes only weeks after restrictions were placed on the NPS operated Memorial Bridge because of a failure to properly maintain the structure. This is not a new problem for NPS and its roadways. In 1997, AAA led an effort with local members of Congress to force the NPS to barrier separate the traffic flows on the GW Parkway to end a series of head-on collisions that had taken several lives. We are sure that for today’s outrageous and unnecessary disruption of this morning’s rush, the NPS will once again plead inadequate funding.”

It is time for Congress to either appropriately fund the Park Service’s transportation needs, or get the NPS out of the transportation business. Major unnecessary disruptions to an already over-taxed transportation network that already has some of the nation’s most congested arteries must be avoided. In a region that is currently discussing the need for more Potomac River crossings, having to limit the ones we have because of neglect is unacceptable. In an area that needs more rush hour capacity, closing half of a major commuter artery during morning rush-hour because of poor incident management of a crash that happened the night before is unacceptable. AAA Mid-Atlantic calls upon our regional Congressional delegation to find a prudent solution to the repetitive and costly transportation failures of the NPS in the Washington Metro area.

File photo

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AAA logoAAA Mid-Atlantic will formally announce that it is now offering roadside assistance for D.C. area bicyclists Friday morning.

The announcement is timed to coincide with Bike to Work Day and will be made at a Bike to Work Day pit stop in D.C.

“To encourage bicycle commuting, which is growing exponentially across the region, AAA Mid-Atlantic will debut the addition of its new roadside assistance service for bicyclists,” the organization said in a media advisory Thursday.

“Starting on Bike To Work Day, the AAA bicycle service will be immediately available to nearly four million AAA Mid-Atlantic members within the club’s Mid-Atlantic footprint, which includes the entire Washington Metro Area, and it applies to all bicycles and bicycle rentals.”

The service is already being advertised on the organization’s website.

A number of other regional AAA branches across the country, including in the Pacific Northwest and New England, already offer the service.

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Pothole on Lorcom Lane (file photo)(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) Arlington roads are chock full of potholes after a snowy winter with plenty of freezing, thawing and refreezing.

Pothole-filled roads have been reported around the county and there have also been scattered accounts of flat tires and other pothole-related damage.

Arlington County has an online form for reporting potholes. Yesterday, we asked readers to report, via Twitter, the location of some of the worst potholes in Arlington. Here are some of the responses:

  • “All of Wilson Blvd heading towards Ballston from 7 Corners to Glebe. It’s like off-roading.” (@isaachulvey)
  • Sycamore between 26th and Lee Highway” (@aoadair)
  • Courthouse Rd from Clarendon Blvd leading down to 50. Was only it last night and there’s literally craters from 14th down” (@mel_shoe)
  • Veitch St. right near Corner Bakery, nearest cross street is Clarendon Blvd. Absolutely horrendous potholes in a couple spots” (@vizzle311)
  • George Mason and N Pershing, same pothole comes back each time they fill it” (@RobertoClaure)
  • Old Dominion from Glebe to Williamsburg Blvd” (@JohnVasapoli)
  • Henderson Road and Thomas Street has become a nightmare over the past week! 3 potholes in the same stretch, no way to dodge” (@eablack)
  • Spout Run Pkwy between Lee Highway and GWPkwy, both ways” (@michbttx)
  • “Construction zone on Glebe from just south of Columbia Pike to the post office. 6+ months now, no improvement. Maddening.” (@Ariadnes_Thread)
  • Nash St in Rosslyn, btwn Key Blvd and Wilson is atrocious. It is just one big pothole after another.” (@kylekeller)
  • “The N-B stretch of S. Shirlington Rd. off 395N has been a disaster for over a year.” (@KyleFisherMBA)
  • Four Mile Run Rd between Geo Mason and Col Pike” (@dtwynn)
  • “On Barton at 10th, heading toward 9th. As you head up hill, giant trench. Part fixed, but huge hole still there to right side.” (@samerfarha)
  • Fillmore between 10th and Clarendon Blvd. there are 4-5 huge ones!” (@emilylynnwalsh)
  • “Corner of 28th Street S and 26th Street S” (@spencer4fsu)
  • “On Carlin Springs Road by the bridge over George Mason Dr. Both sides” (@GusMacker1)

Arlington County crews filling potholes on S. Joyce StreetWe’ll add another to the list: the stretch of S. Joyce Street in front of Pentagon Row. However, as of 11:15 a.m., county crews were out patching the pockmarked road.

One more big problem spot of note: the George Washington Parkway, near Spout Run Parkway, which was partially shut down this morning for repairs after “over a dozen cars” were damaged by potholes.

Arlington County says crews are now tackling potholes on major roads, with plans to get to neighborhood streets a bit later in the spring. From Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter:

It’s been a rough winter season on our roads, particularly with the amount of frozen precipitation and sustained periods of extreme cold temperatures. As we enter this spring season, it is our priority to get crews out there to make potholes repairs. We will do so for the next two months beginning with major arterials. This will include working late into some evenings on non-arterial streets, as well as scheduling teams for Saturday work when weather allows.

AAA Mid-Atlantic issued a press release this morning, suggesting that drivers should file claims for pothole damage against local governments. The press release (reprinted, after the jump) also has tips for avoiding potholes.

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