Arlington, VA

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.

“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.

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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?

File photo

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Arlington ranks high for lots of things — parks, fitness, bike friendliness, livability — but not so much when it comes to safe driving.

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.

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The video (below) was jarring: cars driving through muddy flood waters that nearly reached the tops of tires.

Even more jarring: this was happening along busy Columbia Pike, a route not noted for being flood-prone, during the evening rush hour.

The scene yesterday evening was captured on video by a passerby, showing floodwaters inundating a low-lying section of the Pike near S. Greenbrier Street. As commenters pointed out this morning, driving through flooded roads is a bad idea, but despite repeated reminders to “turn around, don’t drown,” drivers continue willfully operating their vehicles as if they were hovercraft.

(A spokesman with Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services tells ARLnow the department is still investigating the flooding and “looking into whether there were any construction-related obstructions in the storm sewer inlets.”)

Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage this morning offered the following tips for driving during heavy rain and potential flooding situations.

Residents are reminded to:

  • Sign up for Arlington Alert to receive emergency notifications including severe weather alerts.
  • Whenever possible, limit travel during times of severe weather.
  • Avoid areas already flooded, especially if the water is flowing fast.
  • It is never safe to drive or walk into flood waters. If you see a flooded roadway, seek an alternative route.
  • According to the National Weather Service, 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a small car, while 2 feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles. Play it safe, Turn Around Don’t Drown.
  • If you see a hazard, report to the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222 or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.

Those tips may come in handy tonight. A Flash Flood Watch is set to take effect at 2 p.m. From the National Weather Service:

…FLASH FLOOD WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 11 PM EDT THIS EVENING… * THUNDERSTORMS WITH HEAVY RAINFALL ARE EXPECTED TO DEVELOP ACROSS THE WATCH AREA THIS AFTERNOON AND LINGER INTO THE EVENING. LOCALIZED RAINFALL TOTALS OF SEVERAL INCHES ARE POSSIBLE. THIS COULD LEAD TO FLASH FLOODING, ESPECIALLY IN THE URBAN AREAS. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… A FLASH FLOOD WATCH MEANS THAT CONDITIONS MAY DEVELOP THAT LEAD TO FLASH FLOODING. FLASH FLOODING IS A VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION. YOU SHOULD MONITOR LATER FORECASTS AND BE PREPARED TO TAKE ACTION SHOULD FLASH FLOOD WARNINGS BE ISSUED. &&

The video from last night’s flooding is below.

Photo via Becky Haberacker/Twitter

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Morning Notes

Housing and the County Budget — A new Greater Greater Washington article explores ways to add new housing at a time when Arlington County is facing a serious budget gap. [GGW]

Trails Treacherous for Cyclists — Despite efforts to plow local trails, many stretches in Arlington were still icy or snow-covered yesterday. [Twitter]

Police Warn About Phone Scam — “The Arlington County Police Department is warning the public about a fundraising phone scam targeting County residents. Residents have contacted the police department after receiving unsolicited phone calls from individual(s) claiming to be with the Arlington County Police Department and requesting donations to benefit the disabled and underprivileged children.” [Arlington County]

Fraser Among Those Called By Scammers — Arlington resident and local media personality Sarah Fraser was among those to be called by the scammers posing as ACPD. [Twitter]

A Modest Proposal for Stop Signs — “Close observation of local driving practices confirms the view that stop signs have become irrelevant, since no one obeys them. The closest drivers come is to slow and then slide through the intersection. It would be a cost-saving measure if Arlington County were to remove all its stop signs and replace them with ‘Yield’ signs.” [InsideNova]

Va. 8th District Has Most Federal Workers — “The House member with the most federal workers in his or her district is Democratic Rep. Don Beyer, whose Virginia district includes 86,900 federal workers. (Among districts with no military bases, Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly’s neighboring Virginia district has the highest number of federal workers.)” [Pew Research h/t Patricia Sullivan]

Stuck School Bus in Maywood — “#ArlingtonVA school bus stuck this am on N Fillmore St & 23rd St. N 3 days *AFTER* the snow! This hill on Fillmore is NEVER timely plowed or cleared. Do not put children at risk! Can @ArlingtonVA please clear this street.” [Twitter]

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A man in Army fatigues who was riding a motorized scooter down an alley in Pentagon City was nearly run into by an impatient driver.

The road rage incident happened Friday afternoon along the driveway between the Pentagon Row shopping center and the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall. An apartment resident witnessed it and managed to take video of the final seconds, as the soldier scooted just out of the way of the tailgating driver.

“Heard some honking outside my apartment and went over to my balcony that overlooks Pentagon Row, right next to the Pentagon City Mall parking garage,” the tipster said via email. “Saw a car right on the heels of a gentleman on a motorized scooter. Gentleman was wearing military fatigues. The military figure yelled ‘Stop!’ Car proceeds to hit scooter after the rider hopped off. Driver then continues on their way.”

No injuries were reported.

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Morning Notes

Pupatella Raking in the Dough — “Budding Neapolitan pizza chain Pupatella has raised $3.75 million from several investors to open up to eight new company-owned pizza joints in the D.C. area.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Ranks as Top Bike City — “Arlington ranked 17th, up from 25th two years ago. [Bicycling] magazine states Arlington could have made a higher jump in the rankings, but Metro funding issues left less for biking improvements and limited improvements.” [Patch]

Deer Danger on Local Roads — “Across Northern Virginia, nearly 500 motorists will likely strike a deer in the road over the last three months of the year. Virginia wildlife officials are warning drivers to slow down this fall to avoid striking deer and other large animals that are found more often in the roadway.” [InsideNova]

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Arlington County police are gearing up for a new traffic safety enforcement push.

As part of this year’s 2018 Spring Pedestrian & Bicyclist Safety Awareness Program, police officers will be out enforcing traffic laws in Virginia Square and along Columbia Pike this week.

Tomorrow (May 1), officers will be enforcing traffic laws at Fairfax Drive and N. Kenmore Street from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. On Thursday (May 3), officers will conduct the same enforcement at Columbia Pike and S. Oakland Street from 1-2:30 p.m.

Anyone spotted violating traffic laws in those areas — motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians alike — will be ticketed.

The bike safety campaign aims “to change pedestrian, driver and bicyclist behavior while reducing the number of traffic related crashes and injuries.”

The same campaign in 2016 targeted the Crystal City and Clarendon neighborhoods, and a similar campaign in the fall also took place on Columbia Pike.

More from the press release:

Each year, pedestrians and bicyclists account for a quarter of the traffic fatalities in the region, nearly 90 deaths per year. The Arlington County Police Department participates in numerous enforcement campaigns throughout the year in support of its commitment to improving transportation safety in the County. These campaigns combine public education and high-visibility enforcement to ensure that all travelers share the road safely.

Updated Columbia Pike enforcement timeline at 9:04 a.m. on May 2 due to updated press release sent from the ACPD that morning.

File photo

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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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The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles opened online voting today for a license plate design contest intended to help combat distracted driving.

Voters in the Take Action Against Distraction contest have a choice between eight license plate designs created by Virginia high school students. Each license plate aims to raise awareness about distracted driving, whether it be by texting or drivers failing to keep their eyes on the road.

In 2016, distracted driving caused thousands of crashes and claimed 175 lives in Virginia, according to one report.

Voting will be open through March 20, and the winner will be awarded $1,000, courtesy of AAA Mid-Atlantic, the contest’s co-sponsor. Users can vote once every 24 hours.

“We’re so proud of the winners and their excellent license plate designs,” said Martha Meade, spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, in a press release. “AAA Mid-Atlantic is proud to partner with DMV for this effort to bring distracted driving issues to the forefront.”

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Morning Notes

Crystal City Hotel Worker Sexually Assaulted — A female employee of the Hyatt Regency hotel in Crystal City was sexually assaulted Sunday morning, according to police. A 34-year-old man from Bahrain was arrested following the assault. [WJLA, Fox 5]

Arlington Man Beaten to Death in Brooklyn — An Arlington resident was beaten to death by a 69-year-old man in his Brooklyn home, in what’s being described as a case of self-defense during a home invasion. Rodolfo Rosa, 48, of Arlington, Va., died after suffering severe head trauma during the alleged break-in and the struggle that ensued. [New York Post, New York Post]

ACFD to Hold Fire Camp for Girls — Thursday is the first day of Arlington County’s annual all-girls firefighting camp, which “introduces teens to the male-dominated career of firefighting” and encourages them to pursue a career as a firefighter or paramedic. [Washington Post]

Slow Drivers in Passing Lane to Be Fined — Starting this past Saturday, a new law went into effect in Virginia which makes it illegal to misuse the passing lane by driving slowly in the left lane longer than necessary. Those pulled over for it face a $100 fine. [WHSV]

No Flag Waving at Arlington Cemetery — It is technically illegal to wave an American flag at Arlington National Cemetery. That is an unintended side effect of — or, perhaps, collateral damage from — a 2006 federal law meant to crack down on anti-gay protests during military funerals. [Washington Post]

Photos: Costumes of BlerDCon — “The inaugural BlerDCon… brought out thousands of cosplayers of color from across the country” in Crystal City this past weekend. ESPN’s The Undefeated has photos of some of the attendees. [The Undefeated]

Photo via @kcristol

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