Across the country, vehicular fatalities are on the rise.
According to new data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2020 had the highest number of crash fatalities in more than a decade, despite a 13% drop in overall miles driven.
“While Americans drove less in 2020 due to the pandemic, NHTSA’s early estimates show that an estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes — the largest projected number of fatalities since 2007,” the agency revealed last week. “This represents an increase of about 7.2 percent as compared to the 36,096 fatalities reported in 2019.”
Arlington has not seen the same level of fatal crashes, particularly those involving pedestrians, as neighboring D.C. But county leaders are still focused on reducing serious crashes via a new Vision Zero Action Plan approved by the Arlington County Board last month.
One way to get drivers to slow down is more active police enforcement — something that more than 80% of ARLnow poll respondents supported in 2016. But that’s a tough proposition with police departments struggling to recruit new officers and ACPD focused on more pressing criminal matters.
County officials have been asking the state for the authority to place more red light and speed cameras around Arlington. In a partial victory, state lawmakers and Gov. Ralph Northam passed a law last year that allows speed cameras at school crossings, something Arlington has yet to take advantage of.
Putting aside what the county can do within the bounds of state law at the moment, do you — in general — support placing more red light and speed enforcement cameras around Arlington?
ACPD announced the new cameras in a press release late Friday afternoon, saying they will be installed “in the near future” and, when installed, they would be operational 24 hours a day.
Plans have been in the works for the cameras since March 2012. The cameras were reported delayed in June 2013, “still delayed” in October 2013 and “still in the works” in August 2014. The police department’s press release said “construction is expected to start” at Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive.
The cameras will be placed at the following intersections, according to ACPD:
- Eastbound on Columbia Pike at S. Glebe Road
- Westbound on Columbia Pike at S. Glebe Road
- Eastbound on Columbia Pike at S. George Mason Drive
- Northbound on N. Glebe Road at Washington Boulevard
- Westbound on Lee Highway at N. George Mason Drive
- Northbound on 23rd Street S. at US Route 1
- Southbound on 23rd Street S. at US Route 1
The intersections were chosen, police said, based on accident rate, pedestrian safety, the rate of red light violations and the “ability of police to apprehend violators safely within a reasonable distance from the violation.”
Motorists photographed running a red light get a written warning for 30 days after the cameras are installed. After the month-long grace period, violators will receive a $50 citation, but not be assessed points on their driving records. There are already four red light cameras in Arlington — two on Lee Highway in Rosslyn, one at N. Glebe Road and Fairfax Drive in Ballston and one at Lee Highway and Washington Blvd in East Falls Church.
Those four cameras have issued almost 35,000 citations since they were installed in 2010. Per Virginia State Code, police are only allowed to place cameras at 10 intersections in the county at one time.
The Arlington County Police Department has recorded a decrease in red light violations, and therefore ticket revenue, since fiscal year 2012.
The county currently has four working cameras, at N. Lynn Street and Lee Highway, Ft. Myer Drive at Lee Highway, N. Glebe Road at Fairfax Drive and Washington Blvd at Lee Highway. Each violation carries a fine of $50.
ACPD reports the red light cameras have brought in the following revenue for the last four fiscal years:
- FY 2014 — $236,792 (as of July 30)
- FY 2013 — $322,682
- FY 2012 — $444,427
- FY 2011 — $327,292
The police departments points to safety education campaigns as contributing to the drop in red light violations.
“We believe it’s a combination of people understanding and knowing locations of the cameras, along with being better and more aware drivers as the result of educational campaigns put on by our officers regarding traffic safety,” said police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. “Safety is our biggest concern.”
Although they’ve been delayed for more than a year, seven new red light cameras are still in the works for Arlington. They will go in at five intersections shown to have high rates of red light running: two cameras at Columbia Pike and Glebe Road, two at Jefferson Davis Highway and S. 23rd Street, one at Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive, one at Lee Highway and George Mason Drive, and one at Washington Blvd and Glebe Road.
ACPD says the delay has been, in part, due to a Virginia Department of Transportation approval process. The county recently re-submitted information VDOT requires for the approval and hopes to hear back soon. However, VDOT spokeswoman Joan Morris told ARLnow.com the agency submitted its comments to ACPD July 1, and it is “not opposing any of the proposed sites since the signals are maintained and operated by the County.”
Once construction begins at the camera sites, ACPD plans to begin another educational campaign. The department typically offers a one month grace period when drivers will merely get a warning for running red lights at the intersections with newly installed cameras. Violations after the grace period will result in tickets.
Decision Lens Gets $6.5 Million — Arlington-based software company Decision Lens has received $6.5 million in investment. The company has 71 employees and serves 80 customers. [Reuters]
Arlington Youth Baseball Team Wins State Title — The Arlington Senior Babe Ruth 15-Under All Stars have captured a state championship. The team will now compete in the Southeastern Regional Tournament, which starts tomorrow near Richmond. [InsideNova]
The Arlington County Board will consider advertising a public hearing on the issue at its meeting this Saturday. The proposal follows about six months of work from Arlington Public Schools Security Coordinator Kevin Reardon to develop a plan to install the cameras on 10-20 percent of APS buses with no additional expense to the county.
Virginia passed a law in 2011 that allows municipalities to install cameras on school buses and issue drivers tickets for $250 if they are recorded passing a bus when its stop arm is out. Last fall, Falls Church installed cameras on eight of its 12 school buses, Reardon said. Fairfax County is considering installing the cameras and they are also in use in Montgomery County, Md., where 300 tickets were issued in three months earlier this year.
If the County Board approves the request to advertise, it likely won’t be able to approve the cameras until September, since there is no meeting in August. If it’s approved, APS is expected to seek an outside vendor to install, maintain and operate the cameras. The vendor would receive a substantial percentage of the revenue from the citations as payment, Reardon said.
“In Falls Church, in their first year, the vendor got between 60 and 70 percent of the fine,” Reardon told ARLnow.com today. Another chunk of the revenue will pay the police, who will review the footage and issue the citations.
“I’m sure someone will look at this and say, ‘It’s just the school system trying to make a lot of money,’ and that is not the case. By the time you pay the police and vendor, most of the revenue is gone.”
Reardon said he proposed to earmark the remaining revenue to pay for school safety expenses. The cameras would reduce police expenses, he said, because police will occasionally follow school buses on their routes to ensure drivers aren’t going around the stop-arms.
Falls Church has averaged about one ticket per bus each day, Reardon said, but the citation rate fell essentially every month. Once a motorist is ticketed, a repeat offense is far less likely. He also suggested a 30-day grace period once the cameras are installed — there’s no estimate for when that will happen until the full item goes before the County Board — which would send citations to drivers but not charge them with a fine.
Despite some people’s reluctance to put traffic cameras on the road, Reardon said in his research, reactions to the cameras have been generally positive.
“Most places are very happy with it,” he said. “If you’re passing a school bus on Lee Highway and a child pops out, the child will be hurt severely. Previous to this, the only way we could enforce it is to have the school bus driver jot down the tag and go to court, or the police department is used to follow school buses. Now we’re automating that part of school safety, and we’re going to free the police up to do something else.”
Wakefield Students Attend Candidate Forum — Wakefield High School juniors and seniors attended a forum for first-time voters on Wednesday. The students had a chance to ask questions of some candidates for elected office and their representatives. One big topic of conversation was immigration reform, with students expressing support for the DREAM Act, which would allow the children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Virginia’s public colleges and universities. [Sun Gazette]
Long-Time Arlingtonian Celebrates 100th Birthday — Maywood resident Bob McAtee, who has lived in Arlington since 1915, celebrated his 100th birthday on Sunday. McAtee has lived here long enough to remember when Maywood was a “trolley suburb,” when the local youth used to swim in the Potomac at “Arlington Beach,” and when moving companies used a horse and a cart. [Falls Church News-Press]
The seven cameras initially were scheduled to be installed in April. At that time, ARLnow.com inquired about the cameras and learned that there would be a 60 day delay. Now, we’re told the new cameras should be operational by the fall.
“We’ve come across a couple of different hurdles and it’s definitely extending our timelines. The plans the county was supposed to have didn’t come through and a private company had to come in. Some information that was needed was not on the plans provided, so they had to go to survey to get the information,” said Red Light Camera Administrator Officer Caroline Allen with the Arlington County Police Department. “Unfortunately, it’s not as smooth as we hoped it would be to get these cameras out.”
The seven traffic cameras will monitor five intersections shown to have high rates of red light violations. There will be two at Columbia Pike and Glebe Road monitoring eastbound and westbound Columbia Pike, two at Jefferson Davis Highway and S. 23rd Street monitoring northbound and southbound Jefferson Davis Highway, one at Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive monitoring eastbound Columbia Pike, one at Lee Highway and George Mason Drive monitoring westbound Lee Highway and one at Washington Blvd and Glebe Road monitoring northbound Glebe Road.
The first two cameras to be installed — those at Jefferson Davis Highway and S. 23rd — could potentially be in by July if all goes well. The remaining five are estimated to be operational by September.
“We’re still waiting on VDOT approval, then we can go ahead with setting up construction plans,” Officer Allen said.
A study released in January examined the red light cameras installed in Arlington in 2010, and found a decrease in violations at those intersections.
“You can clearly see in the videos that people are running red lights. There are some very close calls,” said Officer Allen. “It’s making an impact just based on the reductions in violations. The number has gone down dramatically.”
Intersections are chosen based on surveys examining the rates of red light violations, the number of accidents, pedestrian safety and the safety of police officers trying to apprehend violators at the intersections.
“It’s defnitely a safety aspect,” said Officer Allen. “Those [intersections] selected are not safe for drivers, not safe for pedestrians, not safe for officers trying to enforce those intersections.”
The standard one month warning period will apply for those caught running red lights at the intersections with the new cameras. After that time, violators will be ticketed.
Once the new cameras are installed, there will be another survey to examine which intersections should potentially receive red light cameras next year.
Pi Day in Arlington — Today is March 14, or 3/14, the day that celebrates the mathematical constant Pi (3.14159). In honor of Pi Day, the business review website Yelp is holding a “pie” event at Bakeshop (1025 N. Fillmore Street) in Clarendon, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. [Yelp]
Red Light Cameras Play ‘Pivotal Role’ — Red light cameras play a “pivotal role” in improving traffic and pedestrian safety. Arlington County says. The county’s red light cameras — currently active at four intersections — resulted in a 50 percent decrease in red light violations at those intersections, the county said. [Arlington County]
State Awards for APS Schools — Eight Arlington public elementary schools have earned a distinction as 2013 Virginia Index of Performance award winners. The schools honored are Arlington Science Focus, Arlington Traditional, Ashlawn, McKinley, Nottingham, Taylor, Henry and Jamestown. [Arlington Public Schools]
Arlington’s All-Male Book Club — “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark explores “one of those rare literary phenomena — an all-male book club.” The group of 10 professional men has been meeting to discuss books in the East Falls Church/Westover neighborhood for 13 years. [Falls Church News-Press]
Photo courtesy “Westover Leftover”
The study focused on the cameras installed in 2010 at four heavily traveled Arlington intersections — southbound Fort Myer Drive at westbound Lee Highway, northbound N. Lynn Street at eastbound Lee Highway, northbound N. Glebe Road at Fairfax Drive and westbound Washington Blvd at Lee Highway. The public was informed of the camera installation and violators were given warnings for 30 days. After the grace period, violators caught on camera received a $50 citation.
Researchers at the IIHS (which is located in Arlington) taped traffic during the warning period, one month after ticketing began and again one year later. They found that one year after ticketing began there was a marked decrease in drivers running red lights. Violations occurring at least 0.5 seconds after the light turned red were 39 percent less likely, those occurring at least 1 second after were 48 percent less likely and there was an 86 percent drop in violations occurring at least 1.5 seconds after the light changed.
“This study provides fresh evidence that automated enforcement can get drivers to modify their behavior,” says Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at IIHS and the study’s lead author. “What these numbers show is that those violations most likely to lead to a crash are reduced the most. The longer the light has been red when a violator enters an intersection, the more likely the driver is to encounter a vehicle traveling in another direction or a pedestrian.”
Traffic was also taped at four other intersections — westbound Lee Highway at Kirkwood Road, northbound N. Glebe Road at Washington Blvd, westbound Arlington Blvd at Manchester Street and eastbound Columbia Pike at S. George Mason Drive — to see if there was any spillover effect from the cameras. While there were some decreases in violations observed in areas close to cameras, they were not always deemed statistically significant.
In 2011, the first full year the four red light cameras were in operation, they brought in nearly $460,000 in revenue. That number halved in 2012, coming in at about $224,000. The camera at Southbound Fort Myer Drive and Lee Highway brought in the most revenue, with a two year total of nearly $304,000.
In April, the county plans to activate seven additional traffic cameras at five intersections shown to have high rates of violations. There will be two at Columbia Pike and Glebe Road monitoring Eastbound and Westbound Columbia Pike, two at S. 23rd Street and Jefferson Davis Highway monitoring Northbound and Southbound Jefferson Davis Highway, one at Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive monitoring Eastbound Columbia Pike, one at Lee Highway and George Mason Drive monitoring Westbound Lee Highway and one at Washington Blvd and Glebe Road monitoring Northbound Glebe Road. The standard one month warning period will apply, and violators will be ticketed after that time.
The proposed FY 2013 Arlington County Police Department budget includes funding for eight red light cameras at six intersections. An ACPD official tells ARLnow.com that the “dangerous” intersections (below) were each identified as safety concerns.
The additional cameras will cost the police department $438,102 during FY 2013, including $66,794 to hire a full-time employee to review each image captured by the camera to confirm that a violation took place. The remaining $371,308 will go to the contractor chosen to install and maintain the cameras.
The expenses are expected to be offset by the revenue generated by the cameras, estimated at $558,688 in the first year. Despite the expected profit, the police department is “very emphatic” that the red light camera program is about safety and not revenue, according to one official.
Currently, ACPD has red light cameras active at the intersections of N. Lynn Street and Lee Highway, Fort Myer Drive and Lee Highway, Washington Boulevard and Lee Highway, and N. Glebe Road and N. Fairfax Drive. Under the budget proposal, new cameras will be installed at the following intersections:
- Jefferson Davis Highway and 23rd Street S.
- Columbia Pike and S. Glebe Road
- N. Glebe Road and Washington Boulevard
- Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive
- Four Mile Run Drive and George Mason Drive
- Lee Highway and George Mason Drive
For Arlington, Fiscal Year 2013 starts on July 1. No word yet on when exactly the cameras would be installed, should the police department’s budget be approved as is.
Under Virginia law, Arlington is authorized to install red light cameras at up to 20 intersections.
While the camera hasn’t been functional in years, its housing is still keeping a constant vigil at the busy intersection. Police tell us, however, that they’re planning on taking the camera down in about a month.
Arlington currently has four working red light cameras: NB N. Lynn Street at EB Lee Highway, SB Ft. Myer Drive at WB Lee Highway, NB N. Glebe Road at Fairfax Drive and NB Washington Blvd at Lee Highway. In Virginia, the fines from red light cameras are limited to $50.