Fairfax wants to reduce pedestrian, cyclist deaths and accidents

Fairfax County officials are hoping a new initiative will slow the rise of pedestrian and cyclist deaths, which today account for more than 33 percent of all traffic fatalities in the region, mirroring national trends.

In Fairfax County so far this year, there have been 43 pedestrian crashes, eight pedestrian fatalities and more than 40 pedestrian injuries. In 2018, the county had a total of 174 pedestrian crashes, 16 fatalities and 196 injuries. Since December 2018, there have been three fatalities from hit and run crashes.

“It’s too much – pedestrian fatalities are outpacing our murder rate in Fairfax County,” said Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. “That is unacceptable.”

Today county officials staged a kickoff event along the Richmond Highway at Lockheed Boulevard to announce the spring campaign of the Street Smart initiative to reduce pedestrian and cyclist injuries and deaths.

The campaign runs through May 13 concurrent with regionwide increased enforcement of traffic safety laws. Police will be monitoring crosswalks and intersections, providing information and when necessary, giving warnings and tickets to drivers and pedestrians who break traffic safety laws.

Working on a Solution

  • All eight district police stations participate in regular pedestrian/driver education and enforcement outreach efforts to remind residents about the importance of pedestrian safety.
  • Fairfax County has invested more than $300 million in bicycle and bus stop infrastructure projects since 2002.
  • There are thousands of crosswalks on 4,500 miles of sidewalks and trails in Fairfax County – created and located by engineers. They are designed to be the best place for pedestrians to cross in that location as safely as possible.
  • There are 3,928 miles of roads in Fairfax County, which had been developed for car transportation – we are re-engineering our roadways to be more pedestrian friendly.
  • Tysons, Embark Richmond Highway and the Mosaic District are helping to change the mindset in Fairfax County, a news release said. Planners and developers say they are leaving behind the suburban, car-centric past and opting for activity centers that feature other modes of transportation: transit, bicycling and walking.

What You Can Do

  • It is important for pedestrians to know that, unlike in many states, they do not have right of way when they are on the curb. VA Code §46.2-924 specifically states “No pedestrian shall enter or cross an intersection in disregard of approaching traffic. Once in the crosswalk, drivers are required to yield right of way to the pedestrian. However, the pedestrian needs to ensure the roadway is clear before stepping into the crosswalk.”
  • Pedestrians should not assume that drivers can see you in a street just because you can see a car’s headlights. Drivers cannot see pedestrians in the dark. These conditions have played a factor in recent pedestrian fatalities in Fairfax County.
  • Always cross the street at a marked crosswalk and intersection.
  • Watch for turning vehicles – look left, right and left again.
  • Always wear bright/reflective clothing when you are walking at night.
  • Drivers should slow down and obey the posted speed limit.
  • Both drivers and pedestrians need to put their phones down and avoid distractions – pay attention to your surroundings.
  • When making a right turn on red, drivers should look back to the right for pedestrians and bicyclists before turning.

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Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.