Summer in Mount Vernon means increased traffic on Richmond Highway (Rte. 1), and pedestrian safety is of concern to local police. Already this year, 18 pedestrian or bicycle accidents, including two pedestrian fatalities, have occurred in the Mount Vernon Police District. The most recent was last week at the intersection of Richmond Highway and Arlington Drive near the Mount Vernon Center Shopping Plaza.
Compared to the first six months of 2010, there have been fewer pedestrian accidents and bicycle accidents on or near Richmond Highway in the Fairfax County Police Department’s Mount Vernon District. The district’s police force patrols the area surrounding eight miles of Richmond Highway from I-495 in Belle Haven south to the east side of Fort Belvoir in Mount Vernon.
So far in 2011, there have been 18 accidents; 12 involving pedestrians and six involving bicyclists, according to Mount Vernon Police Captain Randy Joyce. (Click here to see a map of incident locations.)
In 2010, there were a total of 42 accidents in this area; 34 involving pedestrians and nine accidents involving bicyclists.
“We’re down a few, but not down nearly enough,” Joyce said of the decrease.
Next month, the Mount Vernon District Police Station will kick off its pedestrian safety education and enforcement campaign. The campaign will serve two major purposes: to increase pedestrians’ awareness of laws governing their safety and to keep the number of pedestrian accidents low.
Joyce says the annual pedestrian safety awareness campaign after the Fourth of July weekend. Community groups and churches that work with citizens who travel primarily on foot will receive awareness flyers. Additionally, police will step up their enforcement of pedestrian safety laws.
By Patch’s count, there are just 17 crosswalks across Richmond Highway in the Mount Vernon Police District—an average of one every half mile, though they are not evenly spaced along the road. Of the five pedestrian accidents this year on Richmond Highway itself, three were in locations with no crosswalks. More than half of all pedestrian accidents in the Mount Vernon Police District this year were in areas without crosswalks.
Crossing in areas where this is no crosswalk is not necessarily illegal. Section 46.2-923 of the Code of Virginia states, “When crossing highways, pedestrians shall not carelessly or maliciously interfere with the orderly passage of vehicles. They shall cross, wherever possible, only at intersections or marked crosswalks. Where intersections contain no marked crosswalks, pedestrians shall not be guilty of negligence as a matter of law for crossing at any such intersection or between intersections when crossing by the most direct route.”
“We give out a number of warnings when we go through campaigns,” said Joyce. “Not crossing at a crosswalk is more dangerous when you try to do it up and down Route 1.”
’We Have to Drill It into Their Heads’
Mount Vernon nonprofit Progreso Hispano stresses the importance of basic pedestrian safety in all of its classes. Its students are primarily immigrants who are learning English to help them assimilate into the country.
“Because Route 1 can be so busy, with all the new businesses and BRAC, it could bring more congestion and accidents,” said Cristina Schoendorf, executive director of the organization.
“It’s just like teaching English. It’s all about repetition, repetition, repetition,” Schoendorf continued. “We have to drill it into their heads.”
The organization’s English teachers discuss the brochures in class and ask students if they understand the consequences of disobeying the law. Schoendorf ultimately wants to begin to bring in residents affected by pedestrian accidents to talk to students about it.
“Not only can they get hurt, they can get a ticket and that can have financial implications,” said Schoendorf. “It’s all about being a good citizen.”
New Hope Housing is diligent about educating its residents about pedestrian safety. Susan Keenan, director of residential services, says that they stress the importance of using crosswalks and walk signals during their weekly house meetings at Kennedy Shelter and Mondloch House.
“The issue is really much more serious for residents at the Kennedy Shelter than it seems to be at Mondloch House, though,” said Keenan. “Traffic further south on the highway seems heavier.”
Keenan added that Kennedy Shelter is planning to produce a flyer that will be posted at the entrance of the building as a daily reminder to its residents.
Ultimately, the partnership between police and local community organizations will help reach citizens, Schoendorf said.
“[The police] have given us great support, said Schoendorf. “They come in and do presentations, and they even come in at night.”
The following is a list of pedestrian and bicycle accidents in the first six months of 2011 in the Mount Vernon Police District. This information came from the Fairfax County Police Deparment.
- 1/1/11: Janna Lee Ave. and Richmond Highway
- 1/4/11: Groveton St. and Lenclair St.
- 2/7/11: Beacon Hill and Richmond Highway
- 2/20/11: Belvoir Road and Richmond Highway
- 2/20/11: Belle View Blvd. and Potomac Ave.
- 3/25/11: Amherst Rd. and Sherwood Hall Ln.
- 4/21/11: 8000 block of Kidd St.
- 4/28/11: 3600 block of Buckman Rd.
- 5/7/11: 2500 block of Sherwood Hall Ln.
- 5/9/11: Kathryn St. and North Kings Highway
- 6/18/11: Richmond Highway and Russell Rd.
- 6/22/11: Arlington Drive and Richmond Highway
- 1/1/11: Brevard Ct. and Richmond Highway
- 3/19/11: Collingwood Rd. and West Blvd.
- 5/2/11: Mount Vernon Memorial Highway and Old Mill Rd.
- 5/18/11: Buckman Road and Martha St.
- 6/14/11: Mount Vernon Memorial Highway and Old Mount Vernon Rd.
- 6/17/11: Cooper St. and Dale Rd.