Press Club

New cameras enforcing speeding could be coming to Arlington school and work zones by the end of this year.

The County Board voted on Saturday to have speed cameras installed throughout the county near schools and on public roads where construction work is ongoing.

Board members heralded the cameras as a tool for protecting children, lowering severe and fatal crashes — an initiative known as Vision Zero — as well as reducing race- and ethnicity-based disparities in traffic enforcement and providing relief to overworked Arlington County Police Department officers.

“The idea that we can keep our community safer, address this behavior and then reduce demand on the police and reduce interactions with police is just a really heartening step for us to take,” said Board Chair Katie Cristol.

The vote follows the passage of state law in 2020 allowing municipalities to install speed cameras.

It also coincides with an anecdotal increase in speeding around schools, according to Board member Libby Garvey (although speed-related crashes in school zones have remained relatively constant at 10 per year, per county data).

“Maybe there hasn’t been a huge increase in crashes, but there has been an increase in bad behavior, and that’s pretty worrisome,” she said. “This is about children and safety.”

Last fall, Arlington County took steps to make school zones safer by lowering speed limits to 20 mph around 13 schools.

County staff are reviewing best practices, crash data, equity concerns and other local factors to determine where to place the cameras, Vision Zero project manager Christine Baker told the County Board. School zones encompass a 600-foot radius of a school crosswalk or school access point.

“We plan to be strategic and intentional about where we place speed cameras to ensure they’re effective in reducing speeds and promoting fairness and equity as well,” Baker said.

Board members said this should reassure motorists who also travel in D.C. and feel that camera locations are chosen to “trap” them and generate revenue rather than correct behavior.

Here’s what drivers need to know.

When will the program start? 

Locations could be selected by this fall and the program could start as soon as cameras and warning signs are installed, either this winter or in early 2023.

Who will get citations? 

Anyone going 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. Every citation will be issued after a sworn ACPD officer reviews the footage.

How much will citations cost? What are the other penalties? 

Citations for the first 30 days of the program will be warnings that carry no fines. After that, they are $50 a fine, the same as red light-camera violations. The fines will go into the general fund.

Violations will be civil, not criminal, meaning they won’t add points to a person’s driver’s license or be considered for insurance purposes. Drivers can contest the violations.

How much will the program cost? 

The program will cost $600,000 a year, and for now, ACPD anticipates the fines will offset the program’s costs, Capt. Albert Kim told the County Board. The costs include the purchase of 10 cameras, which can be moved, camera installation, program operations, ticketing and the salary of the full-time police employee reviewing the footage.

Where can I learn more about speed cameras?

Information in multiple languages will be available on the county website. The county will increase communication about the program through community email lists and the communication channels of APS and ACPD as the start date draws closer.

How will my data be protected? 

State law requires Arlington police and the third-party vendor to delete footage and shred physical documents with personally identifiable information within a certain time frame: 60 days of reviewing the footage and determining the driver wasn’t speeding, or within 60 days of a driver paying a fine, Kim said.

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Arlington County could start cracking down on speeding near schools and highway work zones with newly-allowed speed cameras.

This weekend, the Arlington County Board is scheduled to set a public hearing for its Jan. 22 meeting on the question of whether to install speed cameras.

Currently, Arlington County only has cameras that capture red-light violations, but in 2020 the Virginia General Assembly allowed localities to install radar-based speed detectors around school crossing zones and highway work zones. Now, the county is poised to consider adding 10 movable cameras to these zones.

Cameras will improve street safety and make enforcement more equitable while reducing public interactions with police officers, according to a county staff report.

“Automated speed enforcement will significantly advance Arlington County’s transportation safety and equity initiatives as stated through the Vision Zero Action Plan and Police Practices Group Recommendations and leads to considerable reductions in speeding, crashes resulting in injuries, and total crashes — thereby making roadways safer for all users,” the report said.

“Automated speed enforcement also reduces unnecessary interactions between residents and police and further advances confidence in equitable outcomes by reducing or eliminating the possibility of race-and ethnicity-based disparities in traffic enforcement,” the report continues.

State code requires that localities post signs informing drivers of speed cameras and sets the threshold for enforcement at more than 10 mph over the speed limit. Fines cannot exceed $100, and speeding violations do not add points on a driver’s license nor are they considered for insurance purposes, per the state code.

Arlington is proposing a $50 fine for violations. It would match the current $50 fine for red-light violations captured by red-light cameras and fulfill a recommendation from the county’s Police Practices Group, according to the county report.

The group initially recommended calculating fines based on the speeding driver’s income and fixed expenses, the county report said. Since state law doesn’t currently allow such a sliding scale, the group suggested a lower fine and 30-day grace period after cameras are installed.

Before installing the cameras, Arlington County will focus conduct “a robust educational plan,” per the report.

“This plan will include significant outreach across the County to ensure a broad range of residents with different experiences and backgrounds receive information on placement and implementation,” it said.

An unscientific ARLnow poll this summer found that respondents are divided on traffic enforcement: about one-third of respondents wanted to see more speed cameras, while 45% wanted more red light cameras and just over half did not want more enforcement from either type of camera..

Arlington will hire transportation safety consultants to develop guidelines for placing cameras in school zones, using a $60,000 grant from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Camera placement can change in response to data on speeding, citations, crashes and transportation volumes.

The police department estimates installing and maintaining 10 cameras, and hiring a full-time employee to manage the speed camera program, will cost about $600,000 a year, the report said. Arlington County expects fines to offset the ongoing costs of the program.

Last year, the County Board asked the state to expand the use of speed cameras beyond school and highway work zones.

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Virginia State Police troopers engage in a chase on I-395 earlier this month (via Dave Statter/Twitter)

It’s been a common occurrence lately, documented by public safety watchdog Dave Statter: Virginia State Police engage in high-speed chases on I-395 but abandon them at the D.C. line.

That’s because VSP’s loose restrictions for initiating a chase tighten when troopers reach state lines.

“Sworn employees may initiate a pursuit when a driver fails to stop after the sworn employee has given a lawful order to stop by activating emergency lights and/or siren,” according to state police chase policy. But anyone being chased for a possible misdemeanor or traffic violation, who manages to reach D.C., is in the clear.

“Unless the violator’s offense is a felony, sworn employees will discontinue pursuit at the state line,” the policy says. “If the violator is being pursued in connection with a felony offense (in addition to felony eluding police), the pursuit may continue into the District of Columbia or any adjoining state except Kentucky with the approval of a supervisor.”

Asked about which types of incidents typically lead to troopers calling things off at the 14th Street Bridge, and which lead to chases continuing into the District, VSP spokeswoman Corinne Geller said “there’s no one-size-fits-all answer that I can provide.”

“In accordance with Virginia State Police policy, each pursuit is assessed on a case-by-case basis,” she said. “The trooper and supervisor will assess the pursuit based on the variety of factors that are known and unknown at every stage of the pursuit, which will then determine if/when it is in the best of the interest of the public to terminate a pursuit.”

Sometimes, of course, police are able to stop fleeing drivers before they enter the District. Statter posted video of state police stopping a vehicle and making an arrest with guns drawn on I-395 near the Pentagon this past weekend.

If VSP chases a suspect in Arlington County, local police can and have helped nab suspects, but Arlington County Police Department policy specifies officers can only give chase when there’s a serious crime involved. While both have jurisdiction on state highways in Arlington, VSP predominantly handles enforcement there, ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage says.

Arlington officers can only give chase if there is probable cause that a driver or occupant has committed a violent felony or an offense involving the use or threatened use of a firearm, or has warrants on file for either reason. Additionally, ACPD officers can give chase if the pursuit could “abate a danger of a substantial likelihood of death or serious bodily injury,” the policy reads.

When they reach county lines, officers don’t have to stop, but they should consider their “level of familiarity” with the area, per the policy.

While Arlington police will maintain a lookout for a vehicle that flees from them on traffic or minor charges — searching the area without giving chase — the only other recourse in the moment is to notify state police and other local and federal law enforcement agencies.

As for joining other pursuits, the ACPD policy says “officers shall not join in a pursuit initiated by another jurisdiction that enters Arlington County unless the driver or occupant is wanted for any of the above-listed offenses.”

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Abingdon Elementary School students cross the road on the first day of school (file photo)

(Updated at 9:35 p.m.) Arlington County is looking to lower speed limits near schools as part of its ambitious Vision Zero initiative to eliminate serious traffic-related injuries and deaths by 2030.

This Saturday, the County Board is set to decide whether to authorize a public hearing next month to discuss and potentially approve creating “slow zones” on residential streets near 13 schools.

The proposed 58 zones, with a speed limit of 20 mph, will be near 11 Arlington public schools and well as Bishop O’Connell High School and St. Thomas More Cathedral School.

“Attempts to reduce or eliminate fatal and critical crashes can be achieved by regulating unsafe speeds on our streets with measures such as signage and pavement markings,” a county report said. “Lowering the speed limit can be a basic and powerful tool for reducing vehicle speeds.”

Traditionally, Arlington has installed flashing beacons to encourage drivers to adhere to reduced speed limits near schools. The report said these signs are inconsistently installed and are costly to maintain, while “static signage” and pavement markings, reminding drivers the speed limit is always 20 mph, are cheaper and easier to install.

The signage and markings will be tested out at these 13 sites before they’re installed across Arlington.

“Slower speeds around schools is a no-brainer, and are beneficial for everyone,” Vision Zero program manager Christine Sherman Baker told the Transportation Commission earlier this month. “We want to prioritize safety in school zones because children are still learning how to travel safely: how to cross the street, how to ride a bike. They’re some of our most vulnerable users.”

And they’re learning these skills in risky areas: according to the report, 10 or more speeding-related crashes annually happen within 600 feet of a school in Arlington.

Some schools were chosen because they’re new or have existing infrastructure in need of upgrades, she said. Hoffman-Boston Elementary, Drew Elementary and Gunston Middle schools were chosen because they’re near high-injury networks — and including them would help meet Vision Zero’s equity component.

This fall, Arlington County Police Department has been collecting speeding data that will be compared with new data collected next spring to see if these zones are effective, she said.

The community can provide feedback in March and April of next year, ahead of the county-wide roll out, she added.

The proposal was met with enthusiasm from Transportation Commission members and some members of the public.

“Bravo,” Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt said. “I think it’s fantastic.”

Representing local advocacy group Arlington Families for Safe Streets, Gillian Burgess voiced her support for the program during the meeting.

“Slower speeds around schools are not only great for the safety of vulnerable road users, but it also encourages activity, which addresses both child health and health equity,” she said. “It improves air quality and noise pollution around schools… and it promotes mental health and social inclusion.”

ACPD should also “commit publicly” to enforcing speeding near schools, preferably via speed cameras and not just for speeds 10 mph or more above the limit, while the county should consider closing streets in front of schools to cars, Burgess added.

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Arlington County will be soon implementing an additional $200 fine for speeding on eight mostly residential streets.

The additional fine was approved by the County Board last January, but it has taken a year to fully implement due to the need for collecting speed data, as well as pandemic-related installation delays.

It’s part of the county’s Vision Zero program, first adopted in July 2019, designed to take a holistic approach in eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

Signage is expected to go up over the next couple of months for the first four street segments, discussed at last night’s County Board meeting:

  • 28th Street S. from S. Meade Street to Army Navy Drive
  • N. Ohio Street from 14th Street N. to Wilson Blvd
  • 23rd Street S. from Army Navy Drive to Fern Street
  • John Marshall Drive from Little Falls Road to Lee Hwy

Then, come the spring, four more streets will receive signage and enforcement, according to the county Transportation Engineering and Operations Bureau Chief Hui Wang. They include:

  • N. Harrison Street from Lee Hwy to 37th Street N.
  • Patrick Henry Drive from N. George Mason Drive to Wilson Blvd
  • S. George Mason Drive from S. Dinwiddie Street to S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • 7th Road S. from Columbia Pike to S. Carlin Springs Road

All of these streets have a 25 mph speed limit, except for S. George Mason Drive from S. Dinwiddie Street to S. Four Mile Run Drive (which is 30 mph).

The eight new streets are in addition to those that were instituted early last year:

  • S. Carlin Springs Road from Columbia Pike to S. George Mason Drive
  • Military Road from Old Glebe Road to Nelly Custis Drive
  • Lorcom Lane from Military Road to Spout Run Parkway

The installation of these signs began in February 2020 and was completed in April, in the midst of the pandemic.

The $200 fine is in addition to the standard $6 for every mile per hour above the speed limit and the $66 in court fees. So, for example, if a motorist is given a ticket for being 10 mph over the speed limit in one of these corridors, the fine would be $326.

Wang explained the corridors were chosen based on five years worth of data that showed a “documented speeding issue.” Those are mostly near residential, school, park, and other pedestrian-heavy areas.

She also said that this a relatively cheap method to deal with speeding.

“This is a low cost measure to address speeding,” Wang said. “It’s just additional signage.”

There’s also potential for other coordiors to be chosen for this increased fine, but further data collection and analysis is ongoing.

Spurred by a question from County Board member Libby Garvey, Wang said that placards or warning flags are being considered for the new speed signs to ensure they are catching the attention of motorists. Those will be taken down after residents get used to the new fines and signs.

“Yeah, which may take a few fines,” said Garvey.

File photo

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A 33-year-old man has been arrested and charged with dragging an Arlington County police officer with his car after being pulled over for speeding on I-66.

The incident happened around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday on eastbound I-66, near Spout Run Parkway, and drew a large police response.

A motorcycle officer pulled over a driver for traveling 88 mph in a 55 mph zone. Then, after smelling marijuana, the officer requested the driver get out of the vehicle and sign the speeding ticket, according to an Arlington County Police Department crime report.

“The driver initially complied but became uncooperative and attempted to enter the vehicle after commanded not to do so,” the department said. “A brief struggle ensued, during which the officer advised he would deploy [pepper spray] if the suspect continued not to comply.”

“The officer deployed their OC Spray in an attempt to gain control of the driver, however he was still able to re-enter the vehicle,” the report continues. “As the suspect fled the scene in the vehicle, he dragged the officer for a short distance. The officer suffered minor injuries and was treated on scene by medics.”

A lookout for the vehicle was broadcast, but police were unable to find it. Then, after using “various investigative tools,” police were able to get in touch with a family member of the suspect, who subsequently turned himself in last night.

“Ahmad Rahim, 33, of Chantilly, Va., was arrested and charged with Malicious/Unlawful Wounding of Law Enforcement, Eluding, Reckless Driving, and Obstruction of Justice,” police said. “He was held on no bond.”

Update on 12/17/20 — The officer who was dragged is Officer Adam Stone, a well-liked veteran of ACPD’s Motor Unit. Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage declined to provide additional details about the incident, “to ensure the integrity of the investigation and prosecution.”

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Arlington wants to deploys speed cameras and to lower speed limits in residential and business districts below 25 miles per hour.

Those are among a list of state legislative priorities the Arlington County Board unanimously approved on Saturday before the upcoming session of the Virginia General Assembly in Richmond.

Board member Christian Dorsey said at Saturday’s meeting that speed cameras allow for equitable law enforcement while reducing public interaction with the police.

“We want to reduce the amount of times that potential conflicts can turn into something that’s unintended,” Dorsey said.

“Automated ticket enforcement has the potential to improve safety… and further advance equitable outcomes by reducing or eliminating race-based disparities in speed enforcement,” the county said its legislative priority list.

Board Chair Libby Garvey said Arlington also needs discretion on reducing the speed limit in residential and business areas.

“There’s just so much in this state that we find we have responsibility for things and we don’t have the authority to actually do what we need to do sometimes, so this is just a never-ending stream of things that we’re trying to correct and get control over that we ought to have control over,” Garvey said.

Pat Carroll, Arlington’s liaison to Richmond, told the Board that recent leadership changes within the legislature “noticeably helped the fate of Arlington’s legislative priorities.”

Other approved priorities include:

  • “More state funding for localities to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic”
  • “Seeking full funding for K-12 education, including ensuring state funding for Arlington Public Schools reflects pre-pandemic levels”
  • “Protecting existing Northern Virginia Transportation authority revenues”
  • “Allowing individual retail customers to buy 100 percent renewable electricity from any licensed competitive supplier of electric energy”
  • “Supporting legislation to provide greater incentives for tree canopy preservation and planting”
  • “Enacting authority for a local option to develop incentives or regulations to decrease or regulate the distribution and sale of polystyrene food-service containers”
  • “Permit localities and public bodies to set their own rules regarding ‘virtual’ [meeting] participation

Arlington’s full list of legislative priorities is below the jump.

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Amid a nationwide epidemic of speeding on highways emptied of traffic by the coronavirus pandemic, Virginia State Police are urging drivers to slow down.

Two incidents on I-395 in Arlington last week illustrate the need for less speed.

First, state police say speeding was the main factor in a crash involving a 23-year-old driver last Wednesday. Despite a photo that shows the car heavily damaged — after striking a construction trailer sign, a crash impact attenuator, and an SUV — police say the driver only suffered minor injuries.

Over the weekend, VSP posted a photo of a speeding ticket issued to a driver accused of going 115 mph along I-395, where the speed limit it 55 mph. A trooper issued the ticket Saturday morning.

“Would this make your mother proud?” state police asked, ahead of the Mother’s Day holiday.

https://twitter.com/VSPPIO/status/1259214444275605504

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If you’ve got a lead foot, you should probably slow down, especially — soon — on three particular Arlington streets.

In January the Arlington County Board voted to start imposing an additional $200 fine for speeding on certain residential streets.

At the County Board meeting on Tuesday, County Manager Mark Schwartz announced the first three streets that would be subject to the new fine.

  • Carlin Springs Road from Columbia Pike to George Mason Drive — through the Glencarlyn and Arlington Forest neighborhoods
  • Military Road from Old Glebe Road to Nelly Custis Drive — through the Bellevue Forest and Donaldson Run neighborhoods
  • Lorcom Lane from Military Road to Spout Run Parkway — through the Maywood and Woodmont neighborhoods

The $200 fine would be in addition to standard $6 for every mile per hour above the speed limit and the $66 in court fees.

Schwartz said the meeting was the first announcement of which streets would have the new fines, but emphasized that there would be more public notification before the change goes into effect. Schwartz did not specify when the new fines would be implemented.

“We will put more out there,” Schwartz said. “People should not think today, all of a sudden, we flipped the switch.”

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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The Arlington County Board voted last night to approve tacking on an extra $200 to speeding tickets in certain residential neighborhoods.

Those hoping the fines will lead to people driving slower on residential streets will have to wait awhile for it to take effect, however.

The zones for the $200 additional fine have yet to be established and will only be created after county staff document speeding issues on a given segment of road. That documentation includes a data collection process and written confirmation from the police department that “speeding has been observed through enforcement activities.”

Only once that process concludes, and signs are posted on the street, will the speeding fine zone be established. More from a county staff report:

Once the evaluation concludes that a road segment is suitable for implementation of the “$200 Additional Speeding Fine Zone,” a “$200 Additional Speeding Fine” sign will be attached to the speed limit signs along the road segment to alert drivers of the posted speed limit and the additional penalty for speeding. A speeding citation issued within a “$200 Additional Speeding Fine Zone” is subject to this additional penalty.

County Board members touted the new ordinance as an example of Arlington getting “serious about pedestrian safety,” amid the county’s ongoing Vision Zero process.

More from a county press release:

The Arlington County Board today voted to establish a $200 additional speeding fine zone for residential neighborhoods that meet certain criteria. The move came in response to complaints from residents about speeding and pedestrian safety.

“Arlington is serious about pedestrian safety and serious about enforcing speeding laws,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said. “The Board is taking this action to help deter drivers from speeding down residential streets, endangering people who are walking, cycling and using scooters to get around.”

The Board voted unanimously to approve the ordinance change, adopting Virginia State Code 46.2-878.2. To read the staff report, visit the County website. Scroll to Item No. 29 on the agenda for the Jan. 28, 2020 Recessed County Board Meeting.

The Chair noted that speeding fines are just one of many methods the County uses to make streets across Arlington safe for all who use them, including protected bike lanes; signage; traffic signals; enforcement campaigns, and the Vision Zero traffic safety strategy, adopted by the Board in July 2019.

How a road will be designated for the $200 additional fine

The Transportation Division of the County’s Department of Environmental Services will take speeding complaints and existing traffic data into consideration when deciding which residential streets should be considered for the additional fine.

To qualify for the designation, a road must be in a residential area; must be classified as a neighborhood principal, minor arterial or major arterial street on the County’s road classification map and must have a documented speeding issue. A documented speeding issue exists when the County has speed data, collected within five years from the day of the “$200 Additional Speeding Fine Zone” evaluation, showing speeding on the segment; there is a recorded traffic evaluation produced within five years from the day of the “$200 Additional Speeding fine Zone” evaluation, that includes speeding as one of the issues and the County has written confirmation from the Police Department that speeding has been observed through documented transportation safety activities.

Once a road is found to qualify, a “$200 Additional Speeding Fine” sign will be attached to the speed limit signs along the road to alert drivers.  The fine will be added to the current fine for speeding in a residential neighborhood, which is $6 for every mile-per-hour above the 25 miles-per-hour speed limit (plus the state-mandated $66 in court fees). The County Manager said staff will widely communicate the new fine.

Background

Imposition of the fine depends on the data-supported speeding confirmation. Any additional revenue generated by the additional fine will be added to the County’s Operational Budget.

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Morning Notes

Pentagon City Redevelopment on Pause — “Brookfield Properties has suspended plans to launch a major redevelopment of the Transportation Security Administration’s headquarters in Pentagon City once the federal agency moves to its new home in Springfield in mid- to late 2020… it’s a reflection of the new reality that Amazon’s HQ2 has created in the neighborhood.” [Washington Business Journal]

Vote on Add’l Speeding Fine This Weekend — “Currently, a ticket for going 10 mph over the speed limit in a residential zone is about $80. The additional fine would bring that ticket to $280. ‘People drive like maniacs around here. It’s about time they got some punishment,’ Arlington resident Jack Feegel said.” [NBC 4]

Arlington Resident Helps Return Lost Dog — “A lost dog was reunited with its owner thanks to a passing motorist, who noticed something unusual on their way to work, and a fellow driver farther along the road. Dashcam footage shows the unnamed motorist, from Arlington, Virginia, driving to their workplace in Silver Spring, Maryland, on January 13.” [Daily Mail]

ACFD Responds to Calls in Maryland — It’s rare for the Arlington County Fire Department to respond as mutual aid to an incident in Maryland, but it happened Wednesday morning, with several units dispatched to Prince George’s County. [Twitter, Twitter]

Arlington Tourism Tax May Be Made Permanent — “The Arlington County government looks ready to get a major present from the new Democratic majority in the General Assembly. The state Senate has passed and sent to the House of Delegates a measure that removes the sunset provision on Arlington’s authority to impose a 0.25-percent surcharge on hotel taxes to support tourism promotion.” [InsideNova]

Nearby: No Streetcar in Georgetown — “Plans to extend the DC Streetcar to Georgetown have been effectively scrapped. The District Department of Transportation is halting all work on the project ‘for the foreseeable future,’ according to documents submitted to the D.C. Council.” [WTOP]

Flickr pool photo by Rex Block

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