Thanksgiving week is here and, based on past polls, that means about 45% of you are traveling.
Our 2015 morning poll on the topic found that most local Thanksgiving travelers — about 75% — will do so by car, while 20% will travel by plane.
With that in mind, we have three key tips for Thanksgiving road and air travelers.
1. If driving, leave earlier or later in the day
Expect plenty of traffic if you’re planning to drive to your destination on Wednesday, but you can avoid some of it by leaving earlier in the morning or later at night. The same applies for those driving back on Saturday or Sunday.
“Based on the traffic data, periods of heavy congestion are most likely to occur from mid-morning to evening on Wednesday, Nov. 23, afternoon on Saturday, Nov. 26, and all day on Sunday, Nov. 27,” said a VDOT press release last week.
Based on a VDOT map of past travel trends, there is likely to be a fair amount of traffic in and out of Northern Virginia on Tuesday as well, particularly around the evening rush hour.
VDOT will be suspending most work zones and lane closures from Nov. 23-28, but that will only marginally ease the traffic onslaught.
2. Reserve your airport parking now
However, you’re unlikely to find much — if any — parking by the time Wednesday rolls around. Fortunately, as of publication, online reservations were still available for Terminal 2 and economy parking.
Meanwhile, if you’re flying out of Dulles International Airport, don’t forget that the new Silver Line extension to Dulles is now open.
3. Drive carefully (and if you don’t, State Police might stop you)
With so many people on the roads, sometimes after having a few drinks, Thanksgiving weekend is sadly a time of many serious crashes nationwide.
That’s why authorities regularly encourage drivers to be extra careful this time of year.
Virginia State Police announced this morning that it would be conducting extra patrols and enforcement for Thanksgiving. More from a press release, below.
For many Virginians, gathering with family and friends is the true meaning for Thanksgiving. Some will even travel long distances to share in these wonderful family moments. Just as important as it is to make sure those pies and casseroles make it to the dinner table safely, motorists need to make their own safety a priority, as well. Virginia State Police is reminding all drivers and passengers of all ages to buckle up this holiday weekend. Preliminary data show that 54% of those who have died in traffic crashes this year were not wearing a seatbelt or safety restraint.*
“The fact that more than half of those who have lost their lives in traffic crashes this year were not wearing a seatbelt is a tragic and inexcusable reality for Virginia,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Your family wants you to arrive safely and clicking a seatbelt can help that happen. Virginia State Police and your loved ones want you to arrive at your destination safely – ditch distractions, comply with posted speed limits, never drive buzzed or drunk, and, again, always buckle up.”
Wonky GPS directions and old road design are some of the factors that have led some drivers to haphazardly cross several lanes of highway traffic at an I-395 exit, leading to multiple crashes.
Videos, captured from a Crystal City high-rise apartment by former local news reporter Dave Statter, show drivers consistently and dangerously moving across four lanes of southbound I-395 traffic specifically to make the lefthand Route 1 exit (8C).
Watch: Look at the chaos created behind this car as the driver stops in the middle of I-395. They were likely dutifully following GPS dangerously routing them from Boundary Channel to Rt 1. @WTOPtraffic @ARLnowDOTcom @VaDOTNOVA @luzcita @JWPascale @AdamTuss @tomroussey7news pic.twitter.com/uG7fAjqBLu
— Dave Statter (@STATter911) April 27, 2022
The situation is at its most perilous when a driver is coming from Boundary Channel Drive, takes the I-395 southbound on-ramp, and realizes the exit to Pentagon City, Crystal City and Alexandria is only a few hundred feet on the left. Meaning, in order to take it, the driver has to move their car over four lanes of high speed highway traffic in a very short distance.
Some of the numerous videos Statter posts look something like a real-life game of Frogger.
“Watching these people doing this crazy dance to get to the left hand exit,” Statter says. “It’s just a constant, constant thing.”
— Dave Statter (@STATter911) June 1, 2022
Even when we are talking, Statter spots two more drivers attempting to make the same maneuver, despite the fact that VDOT had recently put up a line of orange barrels in an attempt to prevent it.
He also seen plenty of drivers entering I-395 southbound from further down, like the onramp from the GW Parkway, but still realizing too late that they need to take exit 8C on the left.
Since Statter started training his cameras on this section of I-395 back in November, he says he has caught upwards of 18 accidents. All of which involve drivers trying to quickly take the left hand exit.
#caughtoncamera: A crash on I-395S at Exit 8A tonight. You'll never guess how it happened. @ARLnowDOTcom @charlienbc @tomroussey7news @JohnKelly @RealTimeNews10 @CordellTraffic @VaDOTNOVA @JWPascale @AdamTuss @FitzFox5DC @HCBright10 @luzcita #395cam #drivers #traffic #vatraffic pic.twitter.com/CYxIfmqpSH
— Dave Statter (@STATter911) June 3, 2022
Statter says that part of the issue here is the design of the roads and the Pentagon, which was built nearly 70 years ago.
“There’s a lot of on-ramps in such a short period of time,” he says. “[It’s my impression] that’s not the standard for interstate highways of today.”
But a culprit also appears to be modern technology. At least until recently, app-based GPS directions like Google Maps and Apple Maps were telling drivers to engage in this dangerous lane-shifting.
“More travelers will soon be on our roadways as students begin walking, bicycling, and riding the bus to school when classes resume on Monday,” the department said in a release said. “With a little awareness and prevention, all travelers can arrive at their destinations in a timely and safe manner.”
It’s the first time APS students will be in class five days per week since before the pandemic.
Good morning! Our drivers are getting their buses ready to pick up students all over the county. They’ll see your students soon! Have a great first day! #APSBack2School #APSisAwesome pic.twitter.com/MJISzQAYvU
— Arlington Public Schools (@APSVirginia) August 30, 2021
Motorists will see variable message boards on county roadways reminding them to slow down, avoid distractions and watch for students, according to the release. The “high-visibility transportation safety campaign in and around school zones and bus stops” is intended “to ensure the trip to class is as safe as possible.”
Police recommend families talk to their kids about safety, too.
“Safety is everyone’s responsibility and back-to-school is an opportune time to remind students about important steps that can help keep them safe while out in the community,” the department said.
The police department and Arlington Public Schools published a video with safety reminders.
The press release included the following safety tips for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.
Transportation Safety Tips
Drivers are reminded to:
- Obey speed limits which may change during school zone times.
- Avoid distracted driving and keep your attention on the road.
- 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.
- 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 or APS 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
Safety is everyone’s responsibility and back-to-school is an opportune time to remind students about important steps that can 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.
- 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.
Arlington Traffic Still Way Down — “New numbers provided to 7News by the Virginia Dept. of Transportation (VDOT) show… weekday traffic in Arlington County in June 2021 was still down 26% versus June 2019. But that was an outlier – in Fairfax County traffic was only down 12%, Loudoun County just 8%, and Prince William County was basically back to normal, falling just 3% versus June 2019.” [WJLA]
A-SPAN Rebrands — “What began life three decades ago as the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, or A-SPAN, has assumed a new identity: PathForward… ‘We came to the conclusion that we needed a new name to match all that we do,’ the organization’s board chair, Tim Denning, said.” [Sun Gazette]
Route 1 Makes NYT List — “The New York Times this May compiled a list of ’50s-era American highways being re-thought in an age when environmental concerns and past racial injustices in land use are at the national forefront. Arlington’s section of Route 1, that elevated structure that pierces Crystal City, made the cut.” [Falls Church News-Press]
AWLA Reunites Raccoon Mom and Baby — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “Officer Elpers got some amazing footage of this mama raccoon reuniting with her baby this morning.” [Facebook]
Local NAACP Awards Scholarships — “The Arlington branch of the NAACP recently awarded nearly $60,000 in college scholarships to Arlington high-school students.” [Sun Gazette]
Big Donation to VHC — “Virginia Hospital Center (VHC), a community-based hospital providing medical services to the Washington, DC metropolitan area for 75 years, has received a transformative gift of $5 million from long-time donor Lola C. Reinsch to promote the Hospital’s campus expansion efforts.” [Press Release]
Darby Family Visits ACFD Station — “Ashley Darby is having plenty of family fun with her kids this summer. The Real Housewives of Potomac cast member [and Arlington resident] recently took to Instagram to capture their latest outing that left her two-year-old son, Dean, completely ‘lost for words’… ‘What a fun time we had at the Arlington County Fire Station 4 with our friends!’ she wrote in the caption.” [Bravo]
Virginia’s hands-free law takes effect on January 1, and that means it will be illegal to drive holding any personal communications device in Arlington or elsewhere in the Commonwealth.
The law was signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam during the summer. Police will now be able to pull over drivers if they are seen to be holding cell phones.
Previously, only texting or emailing while driving was against the law.
Last year, there were 23,000 crashes in Virginia attributed to distracted driving, resulting in 120 deaths, Northam said in a news conference earlier this month.
Drivers can talk hands-free, but if caught holding a phone they face fines of $125 for a first offense, and $250 for a second offense or if drivers are holding phones in a construction zone.
There are some exceptions:
- Drivers of emergency vehicles can use handheld devices
- Drivers can hold devices while stopped or parked
- Drivers can hold devices when reporting emergencies
- Virginia Department of Transportation vehicle drivers can use handheld devices while performing traffic incident management services
Distracted driving is a community issue that needs to be addressed. Effective January 1st, 2021, it will be illegal to hold a hand-held communications device while driving in Virginia. Do your part, stay alert and attentive on the road. #DriveSmart #PhoneDown pic.twitter.com/y6mPnHhq1F
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) December 17, 2020
“Last year, believe it or not, there were more than 23,000 — I’ll repeat that, 23,000 — crashes in Virginia that were caused by distracted driving, & 120 of those individuals lost their lives,” Governor Ralph Northam said.https://t.co/WodQo9HmaM
— VDOT (@VaDOT) December 9, 2020
Study: Arlington Has Safest Drivers in Va. — The insurance website Insurify says Arlington has the safest drivers in Virginia. Drivers in the county “demonstrate exceptional dedication to their own safety and to the safety of others around them,” the website says. [Insurify]
Local Toll Lanes May Be Sold — “Transurban is selling off stakes in its US toll roads because it wants to strengthen its balance sheet… Transurban owns the 95 Express Lanes, 495 Express Lanes and 395 Express Lanes toll roads near the US capital, but traffic on the motorways has been hard hit by the pandemic… The Virginia assets have the longest concession periods of Transurban’s assets with asset lives out to 2087.” [Australian Financial Review]
Police Response at Va. Square Metro — Metro Transit Police and Arlington County Police responded to the Virginia Square Metro station last night for a person who jumped on the track bed. Orange and Silver Line trains were stopped in both directions while the person was taken into custody. [Twitter]
Arrest Made in Silver Line Sexual Assault — “Metro Transit Police today arrested the individual suspected of an attempted rape Tuesday, October 6 aboard a Silver Line train in Northern Virginia. Kendrie Roberts-Monticue, 21, of Reston, was taken into custody this morning at the home of a family member in Virginia.” [WMATA]
Metro Closure Planned in Early 2021 — “Arlington Cemetery and Addison Road stations will be closed for approximately three months for full platform replacement and station renovation… [During the work] Yellow Line trains will provide all trans-Potomac service for stations Pentagon and south.” [WMATA]
APS Getting More CARES Act Funding — “More than $220 million in federal coronavirus relief is headed to Virginia schools, according to an announcement from Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday… Arlington County schools will receive $4.7 million.” [DCist]
‘Tiger King’ Star Indicted in Va. — Updated at 8:30 a.m. — “Following an investigation by Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s animal law unit, Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, the owner of Myrtle Beach Safari, has been charged with one felony count of wildlife trafficking, one felony count of conspiracy to wildlife traffic, four misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act, and nine misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty” [Press Release]
Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler
Va. to Step Up Restaurant Enforcement — “Recognizing an increase in COVID-19 cases in parts of the state, particularly in the Hampton Roads area, Gov. Ralph Northam is increasing enforcement of the state’s rules around the coronavirus… State licensing agencies will be conducting unannounced visits to establishments, as needed, and the state health department is shifting an additional 100 staff members to its existing team of 500 inspectors.” [InsideNova]
Barrels Fail to Stop Rogue I-395 Driver — Someone stopped their car on a highway, got out, and moved an orange barrel in order to avoid a slight delay while driving from Arlington to D.C. on I-395. [Twitter]
County Board to Approve Arts Grants — “Arlington County Board members on July 18 are slated to approve approximately $216,000 in annual grants for arts organizations… Each of the 21 organizations that requested funding saw at least part of their request fulfilled; in addition, two of four individual artists seeking funding garnered a grant.” [InsideNova]
Local National Merit Scholars — Nine Arlington students are among the National Merit Scholarship winners for 2020. [Patch]
Arlington Students Ace Latin Exam — “According to Arlington Public Schools about 130,000 students across the country take the [National Latin Exam] which focuses on vocabulary, grammar, Roman cultural history and mythology. Nineteen students in the school system were among the few who achieved perfection.” [WJLA]
Flickr pool photo by Vincent
(Updated at 1:10 p.m.) The “How’s My Driving” cycling safety app is planning an event in Arlington tomorrow to collect data on bike lane violations.
App co-creator Mark Sussman told ARLnow that a team of about 40 people are gearing up to hit streets in Crystal City, Ballston, and Rosslyn on Thursday to count the number of times vehicles block bike lanes. The volunteers will track the bike lane violations on S. Crystal Drive, Fairfax Drive, and N. Lynn Street by reporting blockages through the app, which will share the data through a live dashboard.
“Crystal Drive and Lynn Street are just consistently blocked,” said Sussman. “The problem is that we don’t understand the size and the scope of the problem.”
Video recently posted to Twitter shows multiple stopped vehicles blocking the Crystal Drive bike lane. An Arlington County Police tweet from this summer showed a similar violation on Crystal Drive leading to a traffic ticket.
Motor Officers conducted high visibility traffic enforcement along Crystal Drive today to curb illegal practices including stopping/parking in the bike and travel lanes. Increase roadway safety be being a PAL – Predictable | Alert | Lawful. pic.twitter.com/YKmrkCXz2u
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) July 17, 2019
Sussman and his partner and co-creator Daniel Schep, a software engineer, are hoping data collected by volunteers tomorrow during the morning and evening rush hours and lunchtime can help fix that.
— How's My Driving (@hmdappio) October 15, 2019
Currently, only app users in the District can report violations through the app and see how many other violations the driver has racked up on that vehicle — courtesy of a bot that fetches the DMV data. But Susan and Schep have been eyeing expansion into Arlington for months as the app gained popularity and people began reporting violations across the Potomac, too.
The pair say they’re hoping Thursday acts as a demonstration of what kind of real-time data officials could have access to if they contract with “How’s My Driving” in the future.
Volunteers are also out collecting bike lane blockage data today in Pittsburgh. Previously, people helped with a data collection day in D.C. which yielded 700 violations, and another one for bus lane blockages that tracked 300 violations.
“When you get that amount of data, patterns really start to emerge. You can use that data in aggregate both for enforcement purpose and transportation planning,” said Sussman.
However the app creator emphasized that these data collection days are not designed for enforcement purposes, and act as more of a proof of concept.
“No one is getting citations. No one is reporting to authorities,” said Sussman. “The data is only reported in aggregate in a presentation to the county. It would never be used to call out for specific vehicles.”
“The overall effort is not to shame or expose particular violators,” he added.
Photo by Sal Ferro
Arlington County is pledging to eliminate road deaths and serious traffic-related injuries — but it’s not yet clear how officials plan to accomplish that goal.
The Arlington County Board unanimously passed the “Vision Zero” resolution during its meeting Tuesday night that aims to bring the number of traffic casualties to zero. However, officials expect the details of the plan won’t be ready for another two years.
Now the county plans to gather public input on the proposal this fall, decide specific goals before January, and share a draft plan by next fall, per a county press release.
The final version of the Vision Zero plan isn’t likely to be completed before 2021.
County Board Chair Christian Dorsey noted that the number of accident-related deaths and injuries in Arlington remained steady for the past five years despite Arlington’s quickly growing population.
“But we can, and must, do better,” said Dorsey during the Tuesday meeting. “As our population continues to grow, and more cars, buses and bicycles share our streets, it is important that we work with the community toward the goal of completely eliminating deaths and serious injuries from traffic collisions.”
The resolution puts Arlington among network of governments, including neighboring jurisdictions like D.C., Alexandria and Montgomery County, which have passed similar “Vision Zero” promises to rethink traffic deaths as preventable, instead of inevitable.
However, advocates from New York to San Francisco have criticized officials for failing to live up to the goals in recent years. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has also faced pushback for raising traffic fines and increasing the number of speed cameras, but doing little to prevent a rising tide of deadly collisions.
In Arlington, two people were killed last year in crashes, versus six in 2017, and one in 2016. This is the about on par with Alexandria (five fatalities in 2018, and four in 2017) but much lower than in D.C. where 34 people were killed in 2018 alone.
Almost 60 people were reported to have been seriously injured in crashes in Arlington last year — a number that’s remained relatively steady since 2013.
As a condition of the newly-approved resolution, Arlington will publish regular reports on traffic fatalities and injuries, as well as an annual update on overall progress.
Officials in Arlington have discussed a Vision Zero resolution for years. Former Democratic County Board candidate Alan Howze promised to enact the pledge during his 2014 unsuccessful campaign for County Board.
This year, as the county updated the bicycle portion of Arlington’s Master Transportation Plan, officials said that they would put forth a formal Vision Zero proposal this summer.
Some took to social media to criticize the slow-moving process, including Chris Slatt, who chairs the Transportation Commission.
“After all this time I expected a plan, not a one-page resolution,” Slatt said.
So it's great that @ArlingtonVA just adopted a #VisionZero resolution, but I can't help but question…what took so long? Staff have been mulling this for like FIVE YEARS. After all this time I expected a plan, not a one-page resolution.
— Chris Slatt (@alongthepike) July 16, 2019
“For now, we celebrate and strategize,” replied Gillian Burgess, who chairs the county’s Bicycle Advisory Committee.
“We are making progress,” Burgess added. “This is a good step.”
File photo (top). Graphs via Arlington County.
Has the following happened to you?
You’re in a car, bus or on a bike, waiting at a traffic signal. The traffic light turns green, but a driver in front of you doesn’t budge. Other drivers honk, and you see the perpetrator hurriedly putting down a phone and mashing the gas pedal.
Anecdotally, it happened to one ARLnow employee every single day last week.
Needless to say, distracted driving (or distracted non-driving) is bad. It’s first and foremost incredibly dangerous to you and those around you. It is also infuriating, particularly at rush hour as those behind you are trying to get home and safely make it through short turn signals and green lights.
It sends a message: what’s taking place on my phone is more important than you, your time and your safety.
It is, however, not entirely illegal — Virginia’s existing texting-while-driving law applies to use of the phone in a moving vehicle, not when legally stopped. This year Virginia’s legislature failed to pass a more expansive bill, though it did pass a bill prohibiting phone use while driving through highway work zones.
We’re wondering: have you experienced what’s described above? And do you think it’s getting better or getting worse?
Allstate’s just-released 15th annual America’s Best Drivers Report ranks Arlington No. 168 out of 200 cities studied.
According to the insurance company, drivers in the county go an average of 7.4 years between car insurance claims (compared to a national average of 10.57 years) and have an average of 25.3 “hard-braking events” per 1,000 miles (compared to the national average of 19).
The good news: Arlington drivers are getting safer. The county’s 2019 ranking is an improvement over 2013, when it was ranked 10th worst in the country.
Arlington also ranks better than other nearby cities. Washington, D.C. ranks No. 199 and Baltimore is dead last at No. 200. Alexandria, meanwhile, slots in at No. 192.
In Alexandria, Route 1 (Richmond Highway) was said to be the most “risky road” to drive on. In D.C., I-295 was the riskiest road, according to Allstate’s data.
Top on the list this year: drivers in Brownsville, Texas ranked No. 1, going 14.9 years between crashes on average.