Commentary, Guest Commentary, Local Commentary

A Penny For Your Thoughts

Less than a week after Fairfax County’s launch of “Take A Moment,” a countywide campaign to eliminate traffic-related deaths and injuries, a hit-and-run driver killed an elderly woman who was crossing Annandale Road in downtown Annandale. The driver did not stop, leaving the victim abandoned in a heap in the middle of the road. Few witnesses were in the vicinity on Sunday night, so the Crash Reconstruction Unit will have a more difficult job to find the driver.


This accident was near the corner where several pedestrians were hit by a distracted driver in May, and down the block from another pedestrian fatality on Maple Place last year. In the May accident, longtime Annandale resident and volunteer Eileen Garnett died of her massive injuries, and at least one injured county employee still is in treatment for her severe injuries. Sadly, vehicle-pedestrian crashes are on the rise. Between 2017 and 2020, 42 percent of fatal crashes in Fairfax County involved a pedestrian, and a third of those crashes occurred between 3 and 7 p.m.


The “Take A Moment” campaign is simple – drivers approaching intersections need to take a moment, be aware of their surroundings, and make eye contact with each other, especially pedestrians, before turning their vehicles. The Annandale Road/Maple Place intersection is especially tricky. The traffic signal allows left turns on the green arrow, but also allows pedestrian crossings. It is not unusual for a pedestrian to enter the crosswalk about the same time the driver has decided to make a turn. If neither person took a moment to be aware of their surroundings, both might end up having the worst day of their lives. Even Chairman Jeff McKay had a close call, as he related that he narrowly avoided being hit by a car turning right while he was jogging near his home. His point was clear – taking a moment could make all the difference.


The seasons are changing. Darkness falls earlier these days, so Take A Moment to put your vehicle headlights on at dusk (have you noticed how many drivers fail to do that?), be aware of your surroundings, and allow extra time for commuting. Slow down for winter weather – this week’s remnants of Hurricane Ian have made for slick roads and streaked windshields, and the weather is bound to get worse. Drivers should stop for pedestrians trying to cross the road, whether in a crosswalk or not. Don’t text and drive. Slow down in school zones and in neighborhoods. The most numerous complaints to my office are about speeding on residential streets; the many speed humps in Mason District reflect the community’s effort to slow traffic. If you are a pedestrian, wear high visibility clothing or equipment when out at night. Thank you to the cyclists who use pedal power for lights front and rear. You can’t miss them!

Use your phone’s flashlight when walking in the dark. It helps increase your vision and visibility.
It only takes a moment to make a tragic mistake when driving, cycling, or walking. And it only takes a moment to “Take A Moment,” and arrive safely at your destination.

 Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.