Tired of motorists speeding through and around his town, Clifton Mayor Jim Chesley got Fairfax County's approval to have police do part-time traffic enforcement there.
They began July 1 and, at September's meeting of the Clifton Town Council, Capt. Dennis Wilson, commander of the Fair Oaks District Station, presented the first two months' results.
"There were 219 traffic tickets issued," said Chesley. "There were numerous speeding violations both in and out of town."
Drivers were also cited for having invalid or no operator's licenses, running the three-way stop sign at School and Main streets and having no inspection sticker.
"It showed there's a big problem," said Chesley. "The traffic enforcement is working — I just wish it could be 24 hours a day."
Police now monitor the area on weekdays, six hours a day, but Chesley's asked them to include weekends, too. "For the time they're out here, the amount of tickets they've issued is phenomenal," he said. "Next year, I'm going to ask the [county] Board of Supervisors for seven days of police coverage. I think it's justified with these numbers, and it's not taking police away from something else — it's an overtime position."
Wilson's agreeable. "I hope we can do that," he said. "I'm sure there'd be lots of officers willing to do it."
Chesley said half the tickets issued were to Clifton-area residents within 10 square miles — "so we're not immune." Wilson said the commuters caught were from Burke, Fairfax Station and Prince William County. However, Chesley noted that things are still bad on Newman Road: "They're catching people doing 60-65 mph there."
Wilson said none of the tickets were in the $200 enhanced-fine zones — on Newman Road between Fairfax Station Road and the town limits, and Henderson Road between Clifton and Yates Ford roads.
"Where we've seen the most speeding is on Newman Road and on all the roads leading into the town," he said. "It's commuter traffic, and that coincides with our accident statistics for that area. We've found that most of the speeding occurs immediately after morning and evening rush hours and on weekends, so the officers are doing most of their traffic enforcement then."
He said ticketed speeders were usually caught doing 15 mph higher than the speed limit. "And it's often 20 mph and over," said Wilson. "For example, where it's posted 35 mph, we're seeing 55 and 60 mph. We've issued several reckless-driving tickets, as well."
He looked at where most of the accidents were occurring, and that's where police focused their efforts. The hot spots are Newman, Yates Ford, Henderson, Kincheloe and Chapel roads, plus Clifton Road coming from Centreville and coming onto Main Street.
Said Wilson: "We've had people not slow down, at all, but just blow right through and knock down the 'Welcome to Clifton' sign [at Clifton and Newman roads] and end up in a field or on top of the sign."
Before beginning the traffic enforcement, he looked at 25 accidents that happened in Clifton, January through April, and learned something about the drivers. Some 22 were single-vehicle accidents where the motorist ran off the road.
"More than half the drivers in those accidents — about 65 percent — were under age 25," said Wilson. "So obviously, [these mishaps] were caused by both speed and inexperience."
With police keeping a watchful eye in Clifton, he hopes to see a reduction in the accidents, over a six-month period. Said Wilson: "At the council meeting, they asked us to add weekend enforcement, and I'm going to arrange to have some of the officers there on Friday and Saturday nights."