When Jeri Yates’ children were younger, she got in her car and drove them to the movies. She did this despite the fact that Mount Vernon Multiplex Cinemas was across the street from where she lived for 20 years.
“I never crossed the highway; it’s a dangerous road,” Yates said.
That road is Richmond Highway and Captain Mike Kline, commander Mount Vernon District Station, is hoping that more people will follow Yates’ example. As manager and resident of the Spring Gardens Apartments, she just received one of the hundreds of letters mailed out to apartment complexes and motels along the Richmond Highway corridor. The letter is from Kline and states:
“I am Captain Mike Kline, the new commander at the Mount Vernon District Station. The Mount Vernon District Station of the Fairfax County Police Department is initiating an enforcement effort in the near future regarding highway pedestrian violations. In the past two months there have been three pedestrians struck within the Mount Vernon District boundaries. In each of these cases the pedestrian has caused the accident. For nearly 14 of my 23 years of police service, I have served here at the Mount Vernon District. I recognize that pedestrian accidents are a theme that occurs here that needs to be curbed. As such, I am requesting that you circulate this letter to your tenants. The letter contains information pertaining to safely crossing roadways by pedestrians and applicable laws associated with pedestrians.”
“I think it’s a good thing,” Yates said. “It’s just too bad that they can’t keep it up [the enforcement]. It’s scary the amount of people who get hit out there. A young girl was killed about 10 years ago when she stepped off the curb and we’ve had several seniors who have been hurt.”
When asked why they don’t go up to the crosswalk, Yates said, “I think they don’t think about it, and think they can cross without getting hurt.”
Three people have been struck on Richmond Highway already this year. Two of those people were lucky — they were not killed. One of the men was crossing the street by the Gum Springs Apartments, after doing a run to the 7-11 across the street. This person was not killed, but did suffer a broken leg and multiple facial injuries.
Roberto Perez was not so lucky; he was killed in a hit and run accident on Richmond Highway in January. Consuelo D. Hernandez, 26, of Amherst Avenue in the Springfield area, was charged with felony hit and run.
In addition, one of Fairfax County’s own officers was struck by a vehicle on Richmond Highway. He was not killed, but is undergoing a second surgery this week and is expected to be out of commission for the next few weeks.
Four pedestrian accidents on Richmond Highway in less than three months. For Kline, this is four too many and he wants it to stop. As such, he is planning a blitzkrieg of pedestrian enforcement this spring. Unlike last year, when officers handed out warnings, this time they will be handing out tickets with fines so that people will get the message that it’s not safe to cross out of the crosswalk.
“Pedestrian safety continues to be a concern but with community support, education and enforcement I believe a positive impact can be made to decrease the incidents of pedestrian related accidents,” Kline said.
He is asking the local media to print the following information:
TIPS TO STAY ALIVE
* Cross the street at marked crosswalks and intersections whenever possible.
* Use pedestrian pushbuttons to activate/extend the walk signal.
* Stop and look every time before crossing street, even when you have the right-of-way and especially at intersections with "right turn on red."
* Before crossing, look left, right, left again and over your shoulder for turning vehicles.
* Begin crossing the street on "Walk" signals — never when the signal is solid or flashing, "Don't Walk."
* Make eye contact with drivers so they know you're there. Never assume they see you.
* Stay visible after dark and in bad weather. Wear light-color or reflective clothing.
* To report non-working pedestrian signals, or faded crosswalks for re-striping …
call VDOT at 703-383-2600.
Pedestrian Safety Code
§ 46.2-923. How and where pedestrians to cross highways.
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.
§ 46.2-925. Pedestrian control signals.
Whenever special pedestrian control signals exhibiting the words "Walk" or "Don't Walk" are in place such signals shall indicate as follows:
Walk. - Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the highway in the direction of the signal and shall be given the right-of-way by the drivers of all vehicles.
Don't Walk. - No pedestrian shall start to cross the highway in the direction of such signal, but any pedestrian who has partially completed his crossing on the Walk signal shall proceed to a sidewalk or safety island and remain there while the Don't Walk signal is showing.
§ 46.2-928. Pedestrians not to use roadway except when necessary; keeping to left.
Pedestrians shall not use the roadways for travel, except when necessary to do so because of the absence of sidewalks which are reasonably suitable and passable for their use. If they walk on the hard surface, or the main traveled portion of the roadway, they shall keep to the extreme left side or edge thereof, or where the shoulders of the highway are of sufficient width to permit, they may walk on either shoulder thereof.
Unlike previous enforcement efforts, this initiative will include actual citations and not just warning tickets. In cases were minor children are stopped, where applicable, Child Protective Services will also be notified. The whole intent of this initiative is to correct dangerous behavior, which frankly can many times be attributed to something as simple as walking thirty feet to a crosswalk or intersection.
Questions regarding this initiative can be directed to Second Lt. T. J. Rogers at 703-360-8400.