Opinion: Letter to the Editor: City of Bad Drivers?

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: City of Bad Drivers?

Bill Golf’s Jan. 17 letter to the editor “Vision Zero has zero benefits” absolutely hits the mark. His assertion that “we don’t need it” couldn’t have been said any better. In the Allstate annual “Best Drivers Report,” which identifies which of the 200 largest U.S. cities and their surrounding suburban metropolitan areas have the safest drivers, Alexandria drivers rank 192 out of 200. This is only eight places below the city of Baltimore, which is rated as the worst (this surely must affect our insurance premiums).

These bad drivers should be of great interest to the police, but the police have not responded accordingly. For the last 20 years, Alexandria's lack of traffic enforcement has been one of my major concerns. However, the Alexandria City Council and Police Department do not seem to equate non-enforcement of traffic laws and loss of life and limb, or traffic inefficiency.

As an example, it is not possible to traverse many Alexandria streets without seeing bicyclists whizzing right through stop signs. Some of these cyclists are downright profane when challenged, often responding with the digitus impudicus, also known as the “bird.” Although the police occasionally do issue tickets to a few traffic offenders, this is sporadic. A target rich enforcement area is Union Street, since these would-be Lance Armstrong's race through all nine stop signs before they hit the bike path at the southern end. If anything, the bicycle traffic violation rate is now higher than ever.

Bike riders aren’t our only traffic problem; cars go right through stop signs, or do a "California roll," which is only a little bit slower. The Alexandria Police Department needs to get out and start ticketing these traffic violators. Another very serious problem is cell phone use while driving, since these distracted yakkers pay no attention to stop signs, and turn on right without even stopping. Since a large number of accidents are attributable to using cell phones while driving, Alexandria should emulate the District of Columbia by outlawing the use of hand-held cell phones while driving a motor vehicle.

Still another traffic problem is the blocking of key intersections. I can’t even drive down Prince Street during peak traffic hours due to cars blocking traffic at the Jefferson Davis Highway intersection. This would result in a very large fine in some other jurisdictions. In cities such as Baltimore or Washington, D.C., uniformed officers direct and expedite traffic at critical junctures during peak traffic periods. It would be wise for Alexandria to emulate this practice by having Alexandria police officers stationed daily at a number of key locations in order to deter these law breakers and to keep traffic moving.

At the present time, we are not enforcing our own traffic laws. Vision Zero is not going to solve this problem. Let’s just enforce the traffic laws that are already on the books. Get with it, Alexandria! At the least, aren’t you interested in lower insurance premiums? At the most, aren’t you interested in saving a life?

Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet