(Updated at 10:25 a.m.) A week after another cyclist was hit at the intersection of Lee Highway, N. Lynn Street at the Custis Trail, the Arlington County Board approved adding $75,000 to a contract to engineer improvements to the intersection.
The planned improvements to the area, which includes the trail’s intersection with Fort Myer Drive, include removing a travel lane from Lee Highway and extending the curb at the intersection’s corners. It also calls for upgraded traffic signals, on-street bike lanes, signs and landscape areas and a “Corridor of Light” public art feature.
The most troublesome part of the intersection. where numerous car-on-bike accidents have occurred, has been where two lanes of traffic from I-66 turn right on N. Lynn Street toward the Key Bridge. That traffic comes in conflict with pedestrians and cyclists on the trail, who get the green light at about the same time.
The improvements are designed to give cyclists less time in traffic as a result of the extended curbs, as well as greater visibility and a safer “queueing” area. In addition, the start of the Custis Trail would be widened to allow for greater cyclist and pedestrian flow.
The Board voted yesterday to amend its contract with Toole Design Group, which is designing the updates to the intersection, to include additional design of underground features and water main relocation. The project is expected to be 90 percent complete with design by this summer with construction beginning next spring and completing by summer 2016.
Once the project reaches 90 percent design, Arlington Department of Environmental Services says it will schedule a public meeting to present the intersection’s final design to the community.
According to DES, the design of the improvements were funded by a federal grant, and the construction is being paid for by the JBG Companies, which is developing the Central Place office and residential skyscrapers two blocks away. If approved, the contract amendment will bring the total cost of the design to almost $1.2 million. The construction is currently estimated to cost $5 million.
The intersection was cited as needing a redesign in the Realize Rosslyn public outreach process, and some have suggested a pedestrian tunnel or flyover. According to DES, there are no other plans for improvements to this intersection, but the construction doesn’t preclude any changes in the future.
“There’s been a lot of attention at ways we can improve this intersection,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said at yesterday’s meeting. “The Realize Rosslyn process is underway, and we did [talk about] incorporating some focus into potentially systemic changes to the intersection.”
In addition to the trail improvements, Arlington announced yesterday it purchased a plot of land adjacent to the intersection, at 1101 Lee Highway, to preserve green and recreational space for the area. The land might also some day be used for a realignment of the bike trail, to improve safety.
The county paid $2.4 million to a private landowner and is considering constructing an “ancillary boathouse” to pair with a proposed boathouse along the Potomac River that the National Parks Service is considering.
“Over the years, community members have voiced strong support for a boathouse in the County along the Potomac River,” the county wrote in its press release, “to create public access, establish a home for high school rowing programs and to offer educational opportunities related to life along the Potomac.”
Obama Visit Boosted Business at Bookstore — The November 2012 visit to One More Page Books (2200 N. Westmoreland Street) by President Obama and his family boosted revenue at the East Falls Church store by 20 percent. The visit still continues to benefit the store, according to owner Eileen McGervey. [Washington Business Journal]
Miss Gay Arlington Crowned — The new 2014 Miss Gay Arlington is Coco B. Colby. Colby was crowned after besting three competitors during the April 18 event at Freddie’s Beach Bar in Crystal City. Previous Miss Gay Arlington winners include Shaunda Leer, Stardust and Diamond D. Bottoms. [InsideNoVa]
County Promotes Building Safety — After a series of high-profile construction accidents this past fall, Arlington County has officially proclaimed May to be Building Safety Month. “Building safety is our focus every day, although most of that work happens behind the scenes,” said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette, in a statement. [Arlington County]
Crystal City Power Purge Today — Crystal City is holding its annual Power Purge and Shred from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. today. The event, at 1900 Crystal Drive, allows residents to recycle electronics, paper and to get rid of household paints and supplies. There’s also a specialty hard drive crusher for data security. [Crystal City]
Yorktown, W-L Soccer Game Ends in Tie — A “hard-fought, exhausting” boys soccer match between Yorktown and Washington-Lee ended in a scoreless tie Tuesday night. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
(Updated at 6:05 p.m.) Construction has created a glaring safety hazard in the middle of Rosslyn, and so far no one has done anything about it.
The new, $50 million high-speed elevator bank to the Rosslyn Metro station is now surrounded by construction fences — blocking the sidewalk in both directions — and leaving pedestrians only one way to go: across three lanes of N. Moore Street, a road heavily used by buses and taxis, in a mid-block stretch without so much as a marked crosswalk.
Making matters worse: pedestrians have limited visibility thanks to a large fenced-in equipment paddock in one of the lanes. Also, construction barriers across the street force pedestrians to cross diagonally, into traffic.
At one time, pedestrians could access the skybridge that runs across N. Moore Street. No longer: the skybridge is closed and awaiting demolition next weekend.
In the few minutes ARLnow.com was photographing the area this afternoon, a woman pushing a stroller could be seen craning her neck around the equipment paddock to try to spot oncoming traffic. Unable to see around a stopped bus further down the street, the woman and several people with rolling suitcases started crossing. As they crossed, an approaching taxi had to come to a quick stop to let them pass.
Some relief may be in sight next week.
Mike Reisinger, the project manager with Clark Construction, said on Monday and Tuesday next week, crews will be installing asphalt “within the depression in front of the WMATA elevators and opening the plastic barricades on the other side of Moore. This will allow foot traffic to cross in a perpendicular fashion rather than meander.”
This week’s frigid temperatures could be deadly, even inside your home.
The Arlington County Fire Department warns that carbon monoxide incidents typically increase during cold weather as home heating units kick into overdrive. The department issued the following press release, with carbon monoxide safety tips.
As the frequency of Carbon Monoxide (CO) incidents increases during colder winter months, the Arlington County Fire Department reminds all residents to install CO alarms and practice safe heating practices. In 2012, Arlington experienced 47 carbon monoxide incidents and 56 in 2013. These incidents occurred in all types of homes, including single family homes, townhouses, garden apartments and high-rise occupancies.
The silent killer
Carbon monoxide is known as the “silent killer” because it is an invisible, odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness or death. At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. Eventually carbon monoxide poisoning will lead to unconsciousness home, elevated levels of CO can kill you before you are aware there is a problem. However, if CO alarms are installed properly, they will alert the occupants before symptoms even start. CO alarms are an inexpensive way to protect yourself and your family.
CO is produced when fuels, such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane, burn incompletely. While individual apartments may not have these types of appliances in their unit, CO can seep into their unit from another source in the building. Common causes of carbon monoxide in the home include gas furnaces, water heaters, gas stoves, fireplaces, wood stoves, space heaters, portable generators and automobiles idling in a closed or attached garage.
General carbon monoxide precautions:
- Install carbon monoxide alarms in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. For the best protection, interconnect all carbon monoxide alarms throughout the home. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.
- If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, immediately move to fresh air and call 9-1-1.
- If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the alarm still sounds after the batteries are replaced, call 9-1-1.
- Do not leave the car engine running in the garage, fumes can quickly build-up and seep through door cracks into the home.
- Do not use a gas stove or oven to heat your home.
- Ensure all fuel-burning appliances are checked regularly by a trained and certified professional. This includes appliances such as furnaces, gas heaters, ovens, fireplaces etc.
- During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
- A generator should be used in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors and vent openings.
- Only use gas or charcoal grills outside.
More information on how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, visit the fire department’s website.
Located next to Rustico restaurant in the Liberty Center development, the fountain is privately owned and operated by property owner the Shooshan Company, according to county officials.
It has been on for years and children have played in it during the summers, but the Shooshan Company voluntarily turned it off this past fall after county inspectors discovered it had never had a health and safety license.
In fact, it was only discovered to be permit-less when a county Department of Human Services inspector was driving by and noticed the fountain and realized it hadn’t been inspected.
“The fountain at Liberty Center didn’t have the right water monitoring and quality control,” DHS spokesman Kurt Larrick said. “If children have access to it, then the water quality needs to be regulated. They have to follow the same code as other water features.”
The Shooshan Company has applied for a license, Larrick said, but the county sent back their plan, asking for it to include water quality measuring and a monitoring schedule, as well as signage and a proposal for remote shut-off capability. The “ball is back in their court,” Larrick said.
Calls to the Shooshan Company were not immediately returned.
The fountain is considered “an interactive water feature” which, according to county ordinance, needs to have lifeguards and fencing, but, as is the case with a similar fountain at Penrose Square on Columbia Pike, the county can waive those requirements if they are deemed unnecessary, Larrick said.
Flickr pool photo by Maryva2
Arlington’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) encourages residents to make a commitment to being better prepared for emergencies in 2014, perhaps even by making it a new year’s resolution.
OEM highlights the statewide Ready Virginia initiative and asks Arlington residents to join in the campaign by having a plan in case of emergencies.
“I believe we all have a role in emergency management by ensuring that we are prepared, that we have a plan and that we get involved,” said Arlington County Office of Emergency Management Director Jack Brown.
Families should devise an emergency plan and go over it together. All members of the family should understand crucial aspects of the plan such as where to meet if the family is separated. Post the plan in an easily viewed place, such as on the refrigerator. Answer the following questions when coming up with the plan:
- Do you and your family members have contact phone numbers memorized or written down and available in backpacks and wallets?
- Do you have a plan on how to meet up with family if you are separated?
- Do you know how to contact your children’s school in case of an emergency?
- Do you have three days of emergency supplies and water set aside?
The emergency kit should contain enough of the following items to last for three days:
- Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
- Non-perishable food and a can opener
- First aid kit and medications
- Pet supplies
Home isn’t the only place residents need to be prepared. OEM notes that emergencies can happen at work and in the car, so separate plans should be made for safety in those locations. For example, OEM spokesman John Crawford noted that during the Navy Yard shooting last year, some people were required to “shelter in place.” Many did not have adequate food, water or medications in their work area. In addition to those supplies, Crawford also recommends keeping a small flashlight, batteries and a battery operated cell phone charger at work.
Having emergency contact numbers written on a paper and kept in a purse or wallet can come in handy should a cell phone battery die.
“When the emergency comes, all our contact information is in our cell phones, a majority of phone numbers are there,” said Crawford. “If you lose the ability to get that information and your phone is dead, you can’t access emergency numbers.”
The current cold snap is another example of a situation when preparedness can be beneficial. Drivers should prepare for the possibility of becoming stranded by keeping plenty of gas in their vehicles and keeping cell phones charged. Have extra blankets and snacks in the car as well.
“Winter preparedness may be a little bit different from summer preparedness, but if you’re prepared for one emergency, you’re pretty much prepared for every emergency,” said Crawford. “In the Snowmageddon a couple years ago, people were stranded for hours on the GW Parkway. The lessons we learned from that is that people were not prepared. People needed water and food and they didn’t have it. They needed blankets and didn’t have it.”
One of the important factors about having preparedness plans is to practice them often so they become second nature. Not being well versed in all aspects of the plan could be dangerous in an emergency when stress could cause details to be forgotten.
“If you train enough in anything, and then the disaster comes, you won’t think twice about what you have to do,” Crawford said. “You’ll already know what to do.”
The Arlington Prepares mobile app can be downloaded onto Apple and Android devices. Residents can also sign up for Arlington Alert, which allows the county to contact you during an emergency by sending messages to your email or mobile device.
It started on Thursday night with numerous police vehicles zooming into Clarendon with sirens blaring. Drivers pulled over and pedestrians stopped in their tracks. Suddenly, revelers were met with a most unusual sight — a superhero in a cape and leotard emerging from the Chooser Cruiser. Arlington, meet Soberman.
While his getup produced many laughs, Soberman’s message was serious: don’t drink and drive. Speaking through a police car loudspeaker, Soberman told everyone to have fun and enjoy their adult beverages, but to make a smart choice when trying to get home by using a designated driver, taxi, public transportation or by walking.
Soberman’s appearance was coordinated by the Arlington County Police Department and the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP). Attendees were reminded of WRAP’s free holiday taxi service through SoberRide, which runs through New Year’s Day.
WRAP President Kurt Erickson said this is a bit of a different tactic for getting people not to drink and drive. The idea is all about engaging people in a fun way to get Soberman’s message to sink in.
“The message for the rest of the year is that police have stepped up to apprehend drunk drivers. But this message is not about that. This message is hey, celebrate responsibly,” said Erickson. “It’s extremely well received. It’s just a little bit of a different message.”
Soberman repeatedly said that people should enjoy the holiday cheer and they don’t necessarily need to stop drinking, they just should be responsible after drinking. He said his mission is “not to be a buzz kill, only to make sure the buzz doesn’t hit the road.”
Drinkers and non-drinkers alike gathered around Soberman to chat with him and to pose for photos. Passengers leaned out of passing cars to snap pictures and people who spotted the commotion came out of buildings to get a better glimpse. Soberman yelled across Wilson Blvd to a number of drinkers who had just stepped out of bars and began cheering. He waved them over to his spot in front of Whitlow’s.
“Partiers of Clarendon, come over here! Soberman wants to talk to you about how you’re getting home!” he said. “You can win prizes!”
The anti-drunk driving superhero approached one man emerging from a bar and said, “Hello, Arlington partier. I am Soberman.” The bar patron promptly replied, “I am Drunkman.” Soberman congratulated the man for having fun and asked the all-important question,”Drunkman, how are you getting home tonight?”
Like all those who were able to prove they had a safe and sober ride home, the man received a Starbucks gift card from Soberman for making a wise choice. The man flashed a Metro card and said he had no intention of getting behind the wheel.
Soberman especially encouraged folks in Clarendon to use social media to spread the word about staying sober while driving. Those who took the message to Twitter have a chance to win a John Wall or Alex Ovechkin bobblehead.
Part of the campaign is to get drinkers to plan ahead instead of trying to come up with a way to get home once they are already impaired.
“People just need to plan ahead, but they often don’t,” Erickson said. “Leaving the bar is not the time to make an exit strategy. If you’re able to plan an evening out, you should be able to plan a safe way home.”
Soberman first appeared at the end of August but has been particularly active during the holiday season.
“My mission is to prevent drunk driving before it starts,” said Soberman. “Any way you get home safe after having adult beverages — by designated driver or bus or Metro or cab — is the safe and sober choice.”
ACPD reminds drivers to use seat belts, drive safely and pay attention to the roads. In addition to an increase in drunk drivers and distracted drivers around the holidays, police report 32 percent of drivers are more likely to drive more aggressively during this time.
Police had noticed an uptick in drunk driving incidents last month, just before Thanksgiving. During the Thanksgiving weekend alone, Virginia had 11 traffic fatalities. The ACPD hopes drivers will heed its safety message in order to avoid a similar scenario around the Christmas and New Year’s Eve holidays.
Here are the safety tips offered by ACPD:
- Buckle up — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that more than half of the people killed nationwide in traffic collisions were not wearing seatbelts.
- Protect Child Passengers — The safest place for child passengers is in the back seat. Be sure they have a child safety seat and that it is used the correct way.
- Don’t Drink & Drive — Every 45 minutes in the U.S., someone dies from an alcohol-related crash. Be responsible and don’t drink and drive. If you do drink, designate a sober driver or take a cab or public transportation. The Arlington County Police Department is participating in the annual “Drive Sober Or Get Pulled Over” enforcement initiative that continues through the New Year’s holiday.
- Avoid Distractions — 10% of fatal crashes and 18% of injuries caused by crashes were distraction related in 2012. Distractions to avoid while driving include, but aren’t limited to, cell phone use, texting, eating, drinking, and using in-vehicle technologies or portable electronic devices.
- Prepare for Inclement Weather — Last year, 4% of car crash fatalities over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend were weather related. Be sure your car is weather ready and fully serviced. Should the weather be bad, avoid driving. If you are driving, be sure to drive slowly and know your vehicle.
The department added the following greeting: “From our family to yours, the Arlington County Police Department wishes you a safe, happy, and accident free holiday season.”
Safety Improvements Approved for Custis, W&OD Trails — The County Board on Saturday (December 14) approved funding for safety improvements for the Custis Trail and the W&OD Trail. The approval is the first step toward constructing federally-funded improvements for the Custis Trail along Lee Highway at N. Oak Street, N. Quinn Street and N. Scott Street. Improvements will also happen along the W&OD Trail at S. Four Mile Run Drive where it meets S. George Mason Drive, S. Oakland Street and at the entrance to the Barcroft Sport and Fitness Center. [Arlington County]
Tejada Pens Streetcar Opinion Piece — Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post over the weekend. Titled “A streetcar is the right choice for Arlington,” the piece explains why Tejada believes the streetcar is the best option for “transforming Columbia Pike from merely a thoroughfare into a livable ‘Main Street’ served by a variety of transit options.” [Washington Post]
Vornado’s “Dominant Position” in Arlington — Developer Vornado is seen as having a “dominant position” in Arlington’s economy, with $3.7 billion in total real estate holdings. Its presence is only expected to increase with its work on the county’s largest apartment building and the massive PenPlace office project. [Washington Business Journal]
Historical Society Hosts Ornament-Making Event — Arlington residents will get a chance to make their own Art Deco holiday ornament on Saturday (December 21). The Arlington Historical Society will host the event from 1:00-4:00 p.m. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by christaki
ACFD encourages cooks to stay alert while in the kitchen because the leading cause of cooking fires is leaving equipment unattended. The department also discourages the use of outdoor gas fueled turkey fryers due to fire and burn hazards when hot oil splashes during the cooking process.
The department recommends adhering to the following safety tips from the U.S. Fire Administration:
- Stay in the kitchen when cooking and turn off the stove if you leave the kitchen, even for a short period of time. Check on food regularly to make sure it is not burning.
- Use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.
- Stay alert. You won’t be alert if you have been drinking alcohol or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy.
- Keep all flammable items — such as potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels, or curtains — away from your stovetop.
- Keep the stovetop, burners and oven clean.
- Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire if it comes into contact with a gas flame or electric burner.
- Plug microwave ovens and other cooking appliances directly into an outlet. Never use an extension cord for a cooking appliance, as it can overload the circuit and cause a fire.
There are also safety tips specifically for using turkey fryers:
- Use turkey fryers outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other combustible materials.
- Never use turkey fryers in a garage or on a wooden deck.
- Make sure fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
- Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
- Never let children or pets near the fryer even if it is not in use. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot for hours after use.
- To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
- Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
- Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water do not mix; water causes oil to spill over and cause a fire or even an explosion hazard.
- Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. If the fire grows too large, immediately call the fire department for help.
Follow these tips if a fire does break out:
- When in doubt, just get out. When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire. Call 911 after you leave.
- If you do try to fight the fire, be sure others are already getting out and you have a clear path to the exit.
- Always keep an oven mitt and a lid nearby when you are cooking. If a small grease fire starts in a pan, smother the flames by carefully sliding the lid over the pan (make sure you are wearing the oven mitt). Turn off the burner. Do not move the pan. To keep the fire from restarting, leave the lid on until the pan is completely cool.
- In case of an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed to prevent flames from burning you or your clothing.
- If you have a fire in your microwave oven, turn it off immediately and keep the door closed. Never open the door until the fire is completely out. Unplug the appliance if you can safely reach the outlet.
- After a fire, both ovens and microwaves should be checked and/or serviced before being used again.
If you find yourself in immediate physical danger while walking through a neighborhood, heading to a nearby fire station may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But the Arlington County Fire Department hopes to change that with its “Safe Haven lobbies.”
Although it is not yet widely known, a number of the county’s fire stations have been outfitted with special lobby features to protect a person who goes there for help.
The person in danger can go through the outside doors and into the fire station lobby, where the second set of doors leading to the rest of the fire station is always locked. When the person pushes the button on an emergency box inside the lobby, the outside doors automatically lock and the box calls 911. Someone at the county’s Emergency Communications Center (ECC) answers as if it were a typical 911 call placed from a phone. They speak to the person to determine the type of emergency and will then dispatch the appropriate emergency responders to the location.
There are cameras on the ceiling of the lobby that turn on when the emergency button is pushed. While waiting for police or fire fighters to respond, staff at the ECC will monitor the cameras to see what is happening during the call. The outside lobby doors will remain locked until ECC workers hang up the call when they determine the caller is safe.
The system can be used at any time, even if the station is empty while fire fighters are out on a call.
“The fire house is somewhere you can always come if you’re in danger. If you need help or have to call 911, you can come to any fire house,” said ACFD spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani. “It’s important to know that if you live close to one of these locations, one of the five that have it, that this exists and it’s another safety for you.”
All of the newer fire stations — 2, 3, 5, 6 and 9 — have a Safe Haven equipped lobby. Fire Station No. 9 was the first to be outfitted with the system when it was renovated in the late 1990s. The older stations were not built with lobbies, but the goal is to eventually install this type of a system in all of Arlington’s stations when they are upgraded or replaced.
So far nobody has used the system, but it’s unclear if that is because citizens haven’t had the need or if they’re not yet aware the Safe Haven lobbies exist.
The flashing lights will be installed at the crosswalk on the northbound GW Parkway, just prior to Memorial Circle.
“The purpose is to improve safety and increase awareness by slowing down traffic when pedestrians and bicyclists intend to cross the Parkway,” the Park Service said in a press release, adding: “Trail users need to be aware that the flashing beacon is a warning, not a stop sign.”
The lights will be temporary — in place for about a month. Park officials will consider the effectiveness of the installation during an upcoming evaluation of long-term safety and traffic improvements on the parkway.
The installation of the flashing beacon is expected to take place at some point next week.
Ft. Myer Drive in Rosslyn has become a hazard for pedestrians due to ongoing construction, but no solutions are on the horizon, according to county staff.
At the County Board’s Tuesday afternoon meeting, Arlington Transportation Bureau Chief Wayne Wentz had no major recommendations for safety upgrades to the heavily-used roadway. The construction that has most adversely affected safety — on the 1812 N. Moore Street skyscraper — is expected to be largely finished by Oct. 31, but the safety concerns will persist.
“We’re never going to be done looking at Ft. Myer Drive,” Wentz said. “We’ve looked a lot at jaywalking. We just can’t find a way to put a crosswalk in there.”
Wentz said county staff is considering installing signs telling residents not to jaywalk in front of the road’s tunnel — a common crossing zone for those entering and exiting from the back entrance of the Rosslyn Metro Station. The county is also in discussion to put up fencing on the sidewalk and in the two small median islands on either side of the tunnel.
“We need to be more proactive in preventing crossing there,” Board Member Mary Hynes said, “given the fact that we have had near-misses and a hit there relatively recently.”
The sidewalk between N. Moore Street and Ft. Myer Drive on 19th Street will remain closed after Oct. 31, Wentz said. The size of Ft. Myer Drive in that area is part of what makes it unfeasible to install a crosswalk. With more than five lanes, the likelihood of a multi-vehicle accident is much greater than on a smaller road.
“We think that there is a chance to reconfigure what Ft. Myer Drive looks like. It could be a two-way street or a narrower street someday,” Wentz said. “There is hope in the future to do something different there, but we don’t recommend it at this time.”
AAA Mid-Atlantic is reminding motorists to drive carefully in wet weather.
The association sent out the following press release this afternoon.
As the coastal storm continues through the Washington metro area today, motorists will face hazardous driving conditions during their evening commute due to rain and standing water, warns AAA Mid-Atlantic. The auto club is advising motorists to exercise caution when driving.
“Commuters heading home tonight will face the same hazardous weather conditions as this morning’s drive to work,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “When driving in wet weather remember to buckle up, slow down, and keep a safe distance from the car in front of you. Also, remember, it’s the law in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia to turn your headlights on if your windshield wipers are in use.”
To minimize the hazards associated with wet weather driving, AAA Mid-Atlantic recommends the following precautions for navigating in heavy rain, reduced visibility and slick pavement:
- Slow down and increase following distances. Speed limits are set for ideal road conditions. When it rains, visibility is reduced and braking distances increase. On dry pavement, a safe following distance permits two to three seconds for stopping; that should be increased to eight seconds on slippery roads. Train your eyes farther down the road than normal, so you can anticipate changes and adjust your course gradually.
- Do not attempt to drive through standing water on the roads that look too deep. Avoid bridges and roads that are known to flood. When driving on pothole-filled roads, hold the steering wheel firmly to avoid losing control. Just a few inches of water can turn your vehicle into a boat, and could put your life, and the lives of those around you, at great risk. Turn around; find another way to get to your destination.
- Watch out for hydroplaning. No car is immune from hydroplaning on wet surfaces, including four-wheel drive vehicles. Just because brakes work under normal conditions doesn’t mean they will react the same on slippery roads where tires roll with far less traction.
- Alert drivers behind you that you’re slowing with your brake lights. Without anti-lock brakes, squeeze the brakes until they are about to lock up and then release. With anti-lock brakes, use the same move – but don’t pump the brakes, which would work against the operation of the ABS system. Slow down as you approach a pothole. However, do not brake when your vehicle is directly over a pothole.
- Use the central lanes. When driving during heavy rain, use center lanes of the road (without straddling the yellow line). Avoid outside lanes where the water collects at curbside.
- Use low-beam headlights to help other drivers see your car and increase visibility.
- Use your defroster with your air conditioning to keep the air dry and prevent windows from fogging.
- Do not drive around barricades. Many lives have been lost when drivers disregard official orders and find themselves trapped in rising waters.
- Turn off the cruise control in wet weather driving. The use of cruise control on wet roads can cause hydroplaning.
- If conditions worsen to the point where there is any doubt about your safety, take the nearest exit and find a safe location. Don’t just stop on the shoulder or under a bridge where you may feel less anxiety. If your visibility is compromised, other drivers may be struggling too.
- Watch for slick spots on the road. Fumes and oil leaks that build up on dry pavement rise to the surface of the road when it rains, making the road far slicker than it may seem.
The electronic sign the Arlington County Police Department stationed at Washington Blvd and Route 50 with the seemingly obvious message “don’t hit the car in front of you” may have accomplished its intended goal. ACPD reports a reduction in accidents at the intersection.
The department targeted that particular area with an electronic message due to the high number of crashes there. It was the county’s top area for accidents during the second quarter of 2013. After the sign went up, however, the department saw a change.
“It appears the sign worked because there was a sharp decrease in accidents from July to August,” said ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
The sign went up in early July, and from then until today (September 11), police have only responded to two accidents. That’s down from about 15 during the second quarter.
The department believes the simplicity of the sign’s message may be what caused drivers to take notice and heed the warning. Despite the large amount of attention it received, the message did not produce any complaints to police.
The electronic sign is one of four ACPD owns, all of which are mounted on trailers so they can be easily moved around the county. The signs are rotated on a regular basis; messages typically remain for about two months, unless they show a short term alert such as a special event or one-time road closure. This specific sign was changed a few days after ARLnow.com ran the story last month.