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Camera is Watching as Cars Collide on Route 7

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

Conditions were ripe for a textbook example of a Northern Virginia traffic accident to occur at the intersection of Route 7 and Towlston Road on June 26.

It was a hot, sultry, summer afternoon, and it was rush hour. As the humidity rose and traffic thickened, driver patience seemed to dissipate.

Ironically, as the light was about to change at the intersection, Fairfax County Police Capt. Ed Roessler, Reston District Station commander, happened to be passing through, said Fairfax County Police Public Information Officer Julie Hersey.

There was another, silent observer at the intersection: the unblinking red-light photo camera mounted on a pole overlooking Route 7 east that was installed in October, 2000.

It is programmed to take a photograph every time a car enters the intersection on a yellow light. When its strobe light fires, that usually means a traffic ticket will be forthcoming, based on irrefutable photographic evidence that a red light was run.

The camera captures an image of the car in the intersection, including its license tag, and police mail a traffic summons to the driver.

The strobe light last Wednesday may have captured the action that resulted in a collision just before 4 p.m.

Two drivers on Route 7, one going east and one going west, entered the intersection at Towlston Road at almost the same time. The westbound vehicle, driven by a 17-year-old high school student with a guitar in the back seat, was making a left turn onto Towlston Road, his father said.

The eastbound vehicle, driven by 31-year-old Jose Mazriegos was passing straight through the intersection, police said. The two cars crashed together in what police call an "angle collision."

The right side of the teenager’s car, hit during the left-turn motion, was bashed in. The front of Mazriegos' car, which was progressing straight, was also damaged.

One of his passengers complained of pain and was taken to a hospital. Because alcohol was observed in Mazriegos' car, police administered sobriety tests at the scene, but found no evidence the driver had been drinking.

No charges had been filed by Monday, but police were investigating the accident, including a review of photographs from the traffic camera, Hersey said.

Either, both, or neither of the drivers could face charges, she said.