The Ghost of Snapped Shot

Or, welcome to my low-maintenance heck.

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Fairfax: The Deadliest County?

From today's Fairfax Times, we hear that Fairfax County has earned the distinction of being the deadliest county for pedestrians of all of the counties in the D.C. Metro Area:

Fairfax County is the “most unsafe locality for walkers in the region,” according to a study released last week.

“Washington Area's Mean Streets,” a study by the Coalition For Smarter Growth, said Fairfax County has the highest “Pedestrian Death Index” of metropolitan Washington. The index is calculated as a function of population relative to number of pedestrian deaths.

The study listed Richmond Highway (Route 1) as the area's most deadly road, with 22 pedestrian fatalities occurring there between 1995 and 2005.


It's interesting to note who the proponents of this little study think is to blame for our pedestrian safety issues:

Cheryl Cort, policy director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth and author of the study, agrees with McKay.
“Fairfax has taken the first step and paid a lot of attention to pedestrian safety,” Cort said. “VDOT is the culprit,” she added.

Cort, Wells and McKay all blame VDOT's strict regulations regarding the use of crosswalks and other pedestrian safety aids for Fairfax's problem with pedestrian safety.

“Arlington and Alexandria control their own roads, but we're under VDOT jurisdiction. You can't compare apples to oranges,” McKay said.

“VDOT continues to build roadways with the viewpoint of how to speed more motorists down the highway,” Cort said.


This, of course, is complete and utter bullcrap.If you want to get an idea of why we have so many pedestrian deaths in this county, you might want to drive down some of these stretches of roads for yourselves. For example, during my five years of driving on Route 7900 (the Franconia-Springfield Parkway), which connects to 7100 (Fairfax County Parkway), I have observed people crossing the highway part of the road—in other words, nowhere near an intersection or at a marked crosswalk—dozens of times a week.

Dozens!

Sometimes, these pedestrians will race across the highway with children in tow, apparently too lazy to walk the extra 500 feet up the road to the marked crosswalk.

And it's also interesting to note that one of the most "dangerous" roads for pedestrians, according to this farce of a study, is Interstate 495—which, strangely enough, is not for pedestrian use.

So are we really expected to blame VDOT's "strict regulations" regarding crosswalks for pedestrian deaths in Fairfax County, when the pedestrians themselves are ignoring the "safe and legal" crosswalks that we've built into our roads all over the County? Is VDOT really to blame for pedestrians running (or even casually strolling) across a high-speed 4-lane highway, at all times of the day and night?

I don't think the truth is quite so simple, unless you're living in Gerry Connolly's twisted little world.

I do, however, think it might be time to rethink our pedestrian safety laws, if pedestrian deaths are becoming such a concern to our regional planners. A page might be taken from the Russian Federation on this front—If a pedestrian is struck by a car when crossing the road unsafely, the driver is not held responsible in any way. After all, if we go through all of this trouble to mark safe places to cross the street, shouldn't we be "encouraging" people to use them?

As a side note, can you imagine the utter outcry that we'd be facing if VDOT paid attention to this study, and immediately reduced the speed limit on all county roads to 35 MPH? After all, if "moving cars quickly" through Fairfax County is not the goal of the Department of Transportation, then what is their job?

Methinks the Coalition for Smarter Growth might need a remedial lesson or two on what constitutes "transportation" in an already widely-dispersed county.

Update: As another aside, it's important to note that the people I observe doing this on Route 7900 are almost without exception "immigrants" of some sort. Could it be that this "crisis" is one that can be resolved through greater "community" education? Perhaps. But I definitely do not think that blaming VDOT or otherwise browbeating them into turning all of the County's roads into the slow, gridlocked disaster that is Vienna will solve anything.

  Ye Olde Dominion


Comments:

#1 Jonn Lilyea 30-Apr-2008
It probably no accident that Rudy Giuliani began his war against crime in NY by enforcing jaywalking laws. I live in DC and it's the most irritating thing in the world to watch mothers drag their kids at a sprint across the street twenty-five feet from the crosswalk. People in this area are just too swell-headed to obey simple restrictions.
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