With 23 pedestrians dead, advocates call for action to make Fairfax County streets safer – FFXnow | Episode Movies

Even with a month left, 2022 is the deadliest year for Fairfax County’s pedestrians in more than a decade.

As of October, vehicle accidents have killed 22 people on roads and highways in the county — the most since at least 2010, the earliest year in Virginia’s Electronic Traffic Record Data System (TREDS). The previous high was reached in 2018 and 2019 with 17 fatalities each.

State data does not yet include the teenager, who died last Wednesday (Nov. 16) after being struck while crossing Columbia Pike at Bailey’s Crossroads.

However, the teenager was among nearly two dozen people represented by electronic candles and empty chairs covered in cadaver-like white sheets at Oakton High School on Sunday (November 20). A Fairfax Families for Safe Streets (Fairfax FSS) volunteer read out their names in a subdued cafeteria to mark the community group’s World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

“We’ve seen far more tragedy than we can single out today,” said Chris French, volunteer and Fairfax FSS board member, noting that the list didn’t include 18 non-pedestrians killed on county roads, or people who the accidents survived but still suffered physically, financially and emotionally.

Established in 1995 by European non-profit organizations, World Remembrance Day is observed each year on the third Sunday in November as a reason to mourn the lost and to call for action to address future losses. FFS also had events in Alexandria and Arlington.

Fairfax FSS urged local and state officials to improve safety across the area, particularly in corridors known to be dangerous for pedestrians, such as Columbia Pike and Blake Lane — where two Oakton High School students were killed in June and a third was badly injured.

  • Installation of automated speed enforcement in all schools
  • Use of proven safety measures near schools and activity centers, such as B. Fast flashing beacons, HAWK or pedestrian hybrid beacons and lighting at non-signalled intersections
  • Implemented a dedicated Safe Way Infrastructure Plan for all Fairfax County schools
  • Implementation of speed management solutions on all traffic arteries with a high risk of injury and multi-lane traffic routes, e.g. B. Speed ​​feedback signs, road diets
  • Improvements to pedestrian signals and timing for pedestrians to safely cross busy streets
  • Installation of zebra crossings and barrier-free ramps to all entrances at signaled intersections

Speed ​​cameras are likely to come

Fairfax County is working to at least make that first requirement a reality. Spurred in part by the fatal accident in Oakton, the Board of Directors is expected to approve a speed camera pilot program after a public hearing on December 6.

The six-month pilot will only include nine schools and a work zone on Route 28, but Providence County Supervisor Dalia Palchik said the county is committed to expanding it to all eligible locations.

The initial list of schools is still being determined, Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis told FFXnow.

“I’ve always been a big proponent of automated traffic cameras,” Davis said. “I know this is coming to Fairfax County and changing driving behavior. There is no doubt about that.”

Though glad the county is taking action, the Fairfax FSS volunteers questioned why a pilot is needed when cameras have proven effective elsewhere — including Montgomery, Maryland, and Prince George counties, where Davis previously worked Has.

Fairfax City began operating cameras at all four of its schools and two county schools in October, and Arlington County approved a non-pilot program in January. Alexandria City could follow suit next year.

“I think the pace and urgency isn’t what we’d like to see,” French said of the county’s plan for speed cameras. “There just isn’t enough urgency. Change is happening too slowly and people are dying in the meantime.”

Fairfax County is much larger than those jurisdictions, with nearly 200 public schools compared to Arlington’s 30, so county officials felt a pilot will help ensure the speed cameras are successfully implemented before they are installed everywhere, Palchik said .

She and Karl Frisch, who represents the Providence District on the school board, stressed that success will be measured by whether drivers change their behavior, not by the revenue generated from speeding.

“I hope people see that they’re installed and they drive better and they drive slower because that’s the desired result,” said Frisch. “The desire is to make sure people drive safer.”

Holistic approach required

Beyond the pilot for speed cameras, the county approaches road safety from a variety of angles. Some projects focus on specific locations, such as B. A rerouting of school buses away from Blake Lane and a plan to spend $100 million over the next six years to improve the pedestrian zone.

Others are broader, from the Take a Moment awareness campaign launched in September to a new Safe Streets for All program. The district also selected Street Simplified consultants to study roads that can be improved before accidents occur.

According to Palchik, the consultant has completed data collection on 70 intersections, which he is now analyzing.

“We’ve come a long way, but there’s still so much to do and we don’t want another life lost to a preventable accident,” Palchik said. “It really needs all of us. It will take messaging, a change in behavior, a change in infrastructure, a change in enforcement to really do whatever it takes to get there.”

In most cases, however, the county’s ability to address safety concerns depends on working with the Virginia Department of Transportation, which maintains most of the roads.

While county officials said they’ve worked with VDOT on many initiatives, including potential speed limits on the Richmond Highway and Route 7, Fairfax FFS says getting the state involved has been a challenge. VDOT staff and the County General Assembly deputies did not appear at the World Remembrance Day event, although everyone was invited.

The Frenchman and his colleague Phil Kemelor, board member of Fairfax FFS, say VDOT relies on studies that can take months, even for one-off changes like signal or pavement upgrades. By law, the state also prioritizes congestion mitigation over safety, accessibility and other factors when prioritizing projects for funding in Northern Virginia.

“It’s a bureaucracy and they just don’t have the will to change anything,” Kemelor said. “It’s like the process is more important than the people, quite frankly.”

The VDOT’s Northern Virginia district office didn’t directly address his absence from Sunday’s event, but said in a statement that it was working to “improve safety and mobility for everyone”:

VDOT continues to actively work with our stakeholders, including county authorities, elected officials, transit providers, community members and stakeholders, to improve safety and mobility for all users of our regional transit system. We live, work and raise our families in Northern Virginia and continue to look for innovative ways to bring more multimodal solutions to our region.

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