Drunk driving — the alleged reason why a woman was killed in a hit-and-run last month — is on the rise in Arlington.
The fatal crash in the Arlington Heights neighborhood has county leaders considering greater emphasis on curbing drunk driving. Neighbors, meanwhile, are asking the county to add more traffic calming measures to combat risky driving, particularly near Alice West Fleet Elementary School and Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
On Aug. 1, a driver hit Viviana Oxlaj Pérez while she was walking near the Thomas Jefferson Community Center at 3501 2nd Street S. She was treated at the scene and transported to the hospital, where she died.
The Arlington County Police Department arrested Julio David Villazon at his home on Aug. 2 and charged him with involuntary manslaughter, hit and run, driving under the influence and driving on a revoked license.
There has been an uptick in alcohol-involved crashes in Arlington. Last year, ACPD recorded 143 alcohol-involved crashes, up nearly 49% increase from 96 in 2020, according to its 2021 annual report. In 2022, ACPD has recorded 116 alcohol-involved crashes, says police spokesman Ashley Savage.
Driving under the influence is one of the top contributing factors to a “disproportionate” number of critical and fatal crashes in the county, says Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien. The others are speeding, turning left at an intersection, turning right across bicycle lanes and failing to yield to pedestrians.
Each of these behaviors is being addressed during an ongoing “Critical Crash Mitigation Campaign” through December.
The recent rise in alcohol-related crashes chips away at what had been a broader downward trend in drunk driving. Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol attributed this initial decrease to efforts, such as the ACPD Arlington Restaurant Initiative and the Washington Region Alcohol Program, as well as the growing popularity of ride-sharing services — which have been getting more expensive.
“Now, however, national trends are indicating major increases in alcohol-related traffic fatalities during the pandemic (regional data is lagging but reasonable inference suggests our local trends may be similar),” Cristol said in an email to ARLnow. “This indicates to me that there is a greater role for the County Board in public education about the threat that drunk driving poses to our own community.”
Cristol said the most important message she can communicate about last month’s crash is that “there is no safe way to drive drunk.”
“In this situation, the driver was impaired, and there is no ‘safe’ BAC above zero to get behind the wheel. Any intersection or roadway — irrespective of the physical safety improvements, visibility interventions, or other designs to the built environment — is unsafe when a drunk driver is present,” she said.
The DUI is Villazon’s second driving offense within the last 10 years, according to court records. He was previously found guilty of “improper driving” in the Arlington General District Court. Under state code, the misdemeanor charge of reckless driving can be knocked down to improper driving if either the judge or the prosecutor find that the offense was not serious.
His next court date is in February 2023.
The crash that killed Oxlaj Pérez is being examined by a broad swath of local agencies, including Arlington’s transportation staff, the police and fire departments, Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services, Virginia State Police and the County Manager’s office.
But neighbors say the problem is not hard to understand. They say drivers, particularly during school drop-off and pick-up times, speed down S. Glebe Road and Arlington Blvd (Route 50), run red lights, roll stop signs, make illegal U-turns, block crosswalks and go the wrong way on 1st Road S., a one-way street — and they’re not drunk.
“I understand the tragedy that occurred a few weeks ago involved alcohol and likely wouldn’t have been prevented with traffic changes,” said one neighbor, Kelly Cherry-Leigh Davison. “But we have brought up these safety issues numerous times to everyone we can think of and are getting nowhere. I’m worried every day another tragedy is going to occur and we could be preventing it.”
There will again be free Lyft rides on Independence Day, at least in part because of Amazon.
The trillion-dollar tech company with a growing presence in Arlington is donating $10,000 to the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) for its SoberRide partnership with Lyft.
Starting at 4 p.m. on Monday, locals will be able to enter a promotional SoberRide code in the Lyft app for a free ride up to $15. The promotion will run for 12 hours, until 4 a.m. on Tuesday, July 5.
The needed promo code will be posted on the SoberRide’s website at 3 p.m. on Monday.
This marks the sixth year of the partnership between WRAP and Lyft, which began in 2017. During that time, the program has offered thousands of rides around the D.C. area on major holidays to combat impaired driving.
Prior to the partnership with Lyft, WRAP had been partnering with local cab companies since 1991. Over the last three decades, WRAP’s SoberRide program has given more than 82,000 rides home in the D.C. area.
More than 2,200 rides will be available this July 4, WRAP President Kurt Erickson told ARLnow, three times the number of rides provided in 2019 when the record was set.
“Amazon’s further investment in this local and lifesaving program is a real and needed shot in the arm to better equip WRAP and SoberRide to rid area roadways of impaired drivers,” Kurt Erickson, WRAP’s President, said in a press release. “In as much, Amazon’s latest community investment will enhance SoberRide’s capacity in time for a holiday when more than four-in-ten U.S. traffic deaths involve drunk drivers.”
Beyond Amazon, other program sponsors include Anheuser-Busch, Gian Food, Glory Days Grill, New Belgium Brewing, and Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington.
There’s one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality every 45 minutes, on average, in the US, according to recent data from the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHSTA). While drunk driving fatalities had been going down, from 2019 to 2020, they rose by nearly 15%, again according to the NHSTA.
With Arlington pretty much back to fully celebrating America’s birthday, there are plenty of events, parades, and barbeques going on this year locally. With Metro offering reduced service this July 4, the Arlington County Police Department is asking residents to “plan a sober ride home” from these events while advocating for the SoberRide program.
If your July 4 celebration includes alcohol, plan a sober ride home before the festivities begin. @WRAP_org is offering free rides to help prevent drunk driving. Details: https://t.co/gGkRK9CSkI https://t.co/Tz0fMxSeAV
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) June 29, 2022
This $10,000 donation to SoberRide to help locals get home safely on July 4 is part of the company’s efforts to be a “good neighbor.”
“As we head into the July 4th holiday weekend, we are grateful to be partnering with the Washington Regional Alcohol Program to provide free, safe rides to thousands of passengers across the Greater Washington region,” said Patrick Phillippi, Senior Manager of Community Engagement at Amazon, in a release. “At Amazon, we are committed to being a good neighbor and partner to the community and we wish everyone a safe and healthy holiday weekend.”
(Updated, 10/29/21, 10:10 a.m.) There will be free Lyft rides in Arlington and across the region this Halloween weekend.
The Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) is again partnering with the rideshare company for the SoberRide program to provide free rides this upcoming Saturday (Oct. 30) night to prevent drunk and impaired driving.
Starting at 10 p.m., residents ages 21 and older will be able to order a Lyft ride up to $15 using a promo code that will be posted on SoberRide’s website. The rides will be available for the first 1,500 people who enter the code and until 4 a.m. the next day.
The service is being provided as “a way to keep local roads safe from impaired drivers during this traditionally high-risk holiday,” according to a press release.
Between 2015 and 2019, there were 126 drunk-driving fatalities nationwide on Halloween night, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That accounts for more than a third of all motor vehicles fatalities on Halloween night. Sixty-two percent of those deaths were adults between the ages of 21 and 34.
According to @NHTSAgov, between 2015 & 2019, there were 126 drunk-driving fatalities on Halloween night nationwide. That’s why we're reminding the community that nothing is scarier on Halloween night than an impaired driver. If you plan to drink, ensure you have a sober ride home pic.twitter.com/UKmbcqJgvG
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) October 27, 2021
In 2019, more than 1,200 people in the D.C. area utilized SoberRide and got a free ride during the Halloween weekend (the program was canceled last year due to the pandemic).
Additionally, the Arlington County Police Department event that was previously scheduled for Friday night (Oct. 29), has been “postponed” due to inclement weather.
POSTPONED: The community outreach event has been postponed due to inclement weather in the forecast for Friday, 10/29. Community members are encouraged to subscribe to Police News and Updates for information on future events and engagement opportunities. https://t.co/LSrhXCVHTU
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) October 28, 2021
The interactive anti-drunk driving event” was a partnership between Arlington County Police Department and WRAP for an “at the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Hudson Street at 8 p.m.
“The event includes an interactive component to highlight the impact alcohol has on motor skills, a pledge to take a sober ride home and distribution of educational materials,” ACPD spokesperson Ashley Savage said.
Representatives from WRAP were also going to be there prompting the message that “buzzed driving is drunk driving.”
“All drunk driving incidents are 100-percent preventable, WRAP’s teaming-up with the Arlington County Police Department to highlight the impact alcohol can have on motor skills including driving is prevention-defined,” WRAP President Kurt Gregory Erickson said. “The goals of this week’s collaborative anti-drunk driving event are to showcase said impact, convince Halloween celebrants to plan ahead as to how they’ll safely get home at the end of an evening when alcohol was involved and to increase awareness of alternatives to drunk driving like WRAP’s Halloween SoberRide campaign.”
Over the last six years — 2015 to 2020 — there have been 14 total crashes in Arlington on Halloween night, with four being alcohol-related, according to ACPD. During that time there have been eight driving under the influence (DUI) arrests on Halloween.
“The Arlington County Police Department is reminding the community that nothing is scarier on Halloween night than an impaired driver,” said the department.
(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) The driver of a landscaping truck, accused of ramming at least three vehicles, a bus stop and a house in Lyon Park earlier this week, is now facing criminal charges.
Arlington County Police say 33-year-old Jose Gomez of Gaithersburg, Maryland was arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence and Driving with Open Container of Alcohol after Monday’s incident on N. Barton Street.
From an ACPD crime report:
At approximately 3:29 p.m. on March 2, police responded to the 700 block of N. Barton Street for the report of a vehicle crash with property damage. Upon arrival, it was determined that the driver of the striking vehicle allegedly hit a parked vehicle, overcorrected and then drove through a bus stop, a County light pole, metal trash container, and into two parked vehicles. The force of the impact sent one of the parked vehicles into a residence, causing structural damage. The driver of the striking vehicle remained on scene. Officers administered field sobriety tests and executed a warrant for a blood draw. Jose Manuel Carranza Gomez, 33, of Gaithersburg, MD was arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence and Driving with Open Container of Alcohol.
The crashes destroyed the bus stop near N. Pershing Drive and, we’re told, might have caused foundation damage to the house, prompting a building inspector to place a large, orange sticker on the door.
Today a blue tarp covered the spot where a car was pushed partially into the house.
A short video of part of the incident, shared with ARLnow, shows the truck backing up onto the sidewalk and then pulling forward again, as residents yell at the driver to stop.
The nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program has partnered with ride-hailing service Lyft to provide free rides home from 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 5 through 4 a.m. Monday, May 6.
WRAP announced instructions for how Lyft users can access the free rides:
During this twelve-hour period, area residents age 21 and older celebrating with alcohol may download Lyft to their phones, then enter a SoberRide code in the app’s “Promo” section to receive their no cost (up to $15) safe transportation home. WRAP’s Cinco de Mayo SoberRide promo code will be posted at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 5 on www.SoberRide.com.
This year marks the fifth in a row that the organization has organized free ride-hailing for party goers during the holiday.
WRAP said in a statement last month that 897 people in the Greater Washington area used the free rides they organized during Cinco de Mayo last year.
“Over one-quarter (28%) of all U.S. traffic fatalities during Cinco de Mayo 2016 involved drunk drivers according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,” Kurt Erickson, WRAP’s president, said in a statement. “Nearly one-fourth (20%) of U.S. drivers in fatal crashes during the 2016 Cinco de Mayo period had BACs of .15 or higher.”
Steve Taylor, Lyft’s D.C. general manager, said in a statement that the company was “proud” to help reduce drunk driving in the D.C. area.
“Here in the D.C. area, partnering with the Washington Regional Alcohol Program allows us to take our commitment to providing reliable, convenient, and responsible transportation a step further, particularly during times of the year when people are out celebrating and in need of a ride home,” Taylor said.
Police are encouraging people not to drink and drive during Arlington’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities this weekend with a free event about blood alcohol levels.
The annual event, called “Don’t Press Your Luck,” will be held Saturday from 5-7 p.m. on N. Hudson Street between Wilson Blvd and 13th Street N. by the James Hunter Dog Park and Don Tito restaurant.
Police will be using the “Virtual Bar” app by Responsibility.org to show how a person’s gender, weight, and food consumption affects their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and impairs their ability to drive.
Officers plan to close the two blocks of N. Hudson Street from 4-8 p.m. Saturday for the event, and are warning drivers to look out for temporary “No Parking” posted signs nearby.
Virtual Bar was touted as “way to help promote responsible drinking decisions, especially as people explore how foods they are likely to consume when out drinking.”
Arlington County Police are organizing the event together with Responsibility.org and the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), which advocates for ways to reduce drunk driving across the Greater Washington region.
WRAP’s annual St. Paddy’s Day $15 Lyft discount to discourage drunk driving also returns this year. The promo code will be posted on WRAP’s website at 3 p.m. Sunday and the code will work for the first $1,500 customers between the hours of 4 p.m. Sunday and 4 a.m. Monday.
St. Patrick’s Day can be a celebratory time, often including alcohol. The green beer and merry-making of the holiday unfortunately lead to dangerous driving conditions as party-goers head home. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2017, 59 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes over St. Paddy’s Day holiday weekend across the nation. And, more than one-third (37% of all motor vehicle crash fatalities involved drunk drivers. The Arlington County Police Department (ACPD), the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) and Responsbility.org are teaming up to remind that if your plans include drinking, plan ahead to take a sober ride home.
County police believe 61-year-old Rigoberto Folgar Hernandez was sent home Friday afternoon (Sept. 28) after showing up to work drunk at a car wash along the 4100 block of S. Four Mile Run Drive.
But Hernandez returned to the business a short time later, when he “drove a customer’s vehicle off the property, went over a median and struck a concrete piling and a parked vehicle,” police say.
Hernandez then exited the vehicle and went back to the car wash, where he was arrested shortly afterward. He’s now facing charges of grand larceny: motor vehicle theft, destruction of property, hit and run, and drunk in public.
Hernandez is set for a hearing on those charges in Arlington General District Court on Nov. 20, and is being held without bond.
Full details from a county crime report:
GRAND LARCENY (Significant), 4100 block of S. Four Mile Run Drive. At approximately 11:34 a.m. on September 28, police were dispatched to the report of a hit and run. Upon arrival, it was determined the suspect had been sent home from his employment at a car wash due to showing signs of intoxication. The suspect returned to the car wash and, shortly after, drove a customer’s vehicle off the property, went over a median and struck a concrete piling and a parked vehicle. The suspect then exited the vehicle and fled the scene on foot back to the car wash. Rigoberto Folgar Hernandez, 61, of Arlington, Va., was arrested and charged with Grand Larceny: Motor Vehicle Theft, Destruction of Property, Hit and Run, and Drunk in Public. He was held on no bond.
County police will participate in the national “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign beginning today (Aug. 17).
ACPD joins a national effort, which runs through Sept. 3, that aims to reduce drunk driving through increased public safety messages and augmented enforcement.
As part of that work, officers will conduct a “sobriety checkpoint” in the county on Aug. 23, stopping all vehicles who pass through it. Drivers will be asked to show their licenses and will be taken off the roadway for observation and potential intoxication testing if they seem to be under the influence.
Photo via Arlington County
Free Lyft rides will be available to those looking for a safe ride home on St. Patrick’s Day this weekend.
The promotion is being offered by the Washington Regional Alcohol Program, a local nonprofit, and will run from Saturday, March 17 at 4 p.m. through March 18 at 4 a.m..
“During this twelve-hour period, area residents age 21 and older celebrating with alcohol may download Lyft to their phones, then enter a SoberRide code in the app’s ‘Promo’ section to receive their no cost (up to $15) safe transportation home,” the organization said in a press release. “WRAP’s St. Patrick’s Day SoberRide promo code will be posted at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 17 on www.SoberRide.com.”
Last year, 460 people used WRAP’s SoberRide Lyft services on St. Patrick’s Day in the D.C. area.
“Almost three-fourths (69%) of all U.S. traffic deaths occurring during the six evening hours following St. Patrick’s Day [in 2016] involved alcohol-impaired drivers,” noted WRAP President Kurt Gregory Erickson.
This Halloween, patrons at select Arlington restaurants will be praised not for the creativity of their costumes, but for getting home safely.
From 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., representatives from the campaign will be outside three Clarendon nightspots to thank designated drivers and those who choose to take public transportation, a taxi or ride sharing service home.
The three restaurants that will be reference points for the “surprise and delight” thanking events are:
- Clarendon Ballroom at 3185 Wilson Blvd.
- Spider Kelly’s at 3181 Wilson Blvd.
- Don Tito at 3165 Wilson Blvd.
This year’s campaign is aimed at stopping people ages 21 to 35 from drinking and driving. According to a release, 36 percent of highway fatalities in Virginia last year were alcohol-related, and more than 40 percent of people killed in alcohol-related crashes were within the campaign’s target age range.
Festive holidays, like this weekend’s Halloween celebration, often see a spike in DUI-related incidents.
WRAP will also offer free taxi rides on Saturday through its SoberRide program.
The free rides will be offered from 10 p.m. on Saturday to 4 a.m. on Sunday. In order to get a free ride, revelers have to book their cab by calling 1-800-200-TAXI.
In its press release (below), WRAP noted that nearly half of all Halloween traffic deaths in the U.S. are caused by drunk drivers.
As a means of making the Washington-metropolitan area’s roadways a little less frightening this Halloween, free cab rides will be offered to would-be drunk drivers throughout Arlington County, Virginia on the evening of Saturday, October 31st.
Offered by the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), the Halloween SoberRide® program will be in operation at 10:00 pm on Saturday, October 31st (Halloween) and operate until 4:00 am on Sunday, November 1st, as a way to keep local roads safe from impaired drivers during this traditionally high-risk, holiday period.
During this six-hour period, area residents ages 21 and older celebrating with alcohol may call the toll-free SoberRide® phone number 1-800-200-TAXI and be afforded a no-cost (up to a $30 fare), safe way home. AT&T wireless customers can dial #WRAP for the same service.
Local taxicab companies throughout the Washington-metropolitan area provide this no-cost service to local residents age 21 and older who otherwise may attempt to drive home after drinking.
SoberRide® is offered in the: District of Columbia; throughout the Maryland counties of Montgomery and Prince George’s; and throughout the Northern Virginia counties of Arlington, Fairfax, (eastern) Loudoun and Prince William.
“The scary fact is that nearly half (43%*) of all U.S. traffic deaths occurring during Halloween are caused by drunk drivers,”said Kurt Gregory Erickson, WRAP’s President.
Sponsors of this year’s Halloween SoberRide® offering include: AAA Mid-Atlantic, Anheuser-Busch, Constellation Brands, Diageo, District of Columbia Association of Beverage Alcohol Wholesalers, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, Giant Food, MillerCoors, Red Top Cab of Arlington, Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, Volkswagen Group of America and the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association.
Participating taxicab companies include: Alexandria Yellow Cab; Barwood; Fairfax Yellow Cab; Loudoun Yellow Cab; Northern Virginia Checker Cab; Red Top Cab; Silver Cab of Prince George’s County; Yellow Cab of D.C.; and Yellow Cab of Prince William County.
Last Halloween’s (2014) SoberRide® program provided nearly 300 (278) free cab rides home to would-be drunk drivers in the Washington-metropolitan area.
Since 1993, WRAP’s SoberRide® program has provided 62,773 free cab rides home to would-be drunk drivers in the Greater Washington area.
Founded in 1982, the nonprofit [501(c)(3)] Washington Regional Alcohol Program (www.wrap.org) is an award-winning public-private partnership working to prevent drunk driving and underage drinking in the Washington-metropolitan area. Through public education, innovative health education programs and advocacy, WRAP is credited with keeping the metro-Washington area’s alcohol-related traffic deaths consistently lower than the national average.
More information about WRAP’s SoberRide® initiative can be found at www.soberride.com.