Commentary, Guest Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts

In the first 10 months of 2022, 18 pedestrian deaths have been recorded on Fairfax County roadways.  The most recent pedestrian death was last week on Leesburg Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads, where a woman was struck by one vehicle, and then, according to the police investigation, was struck by a second vehicle in the dark.  The pedestrian was crossing at night, outside of the marked crosswalk, when hit.  Originally classified as a hit-and-run, police discovered that the first driver, who did not stop immediately, did pull into a nearby parking lot to call 911.  

Last Wednesday’s crash was eerily similar to the October 3rd death of an elderly female pedestrian in Annandale, who was struck by a hit-and-run driver while crossing Annandale Road outside of a marked crosswalk at night.  That driver is still being sought.  Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis, in a WTOP podcast, noted that, of the 18 deaths, 12 people were 40 years or older; 11 were female; 10 pedestrians were outside of the marked crosswalk, and 11 pedestrians, not the driver, were determined to be at fault.  That is cold comfort, of course, but highlights the fact that pedestrian/driver safety is a joint responsibility. 

For drivers: slow down, pay attention to your driving, use your headlights (I’ve lost count of the number of vehicles recently on the road without headlights, in the dark!), and stay off your devices.  Also, please check to see if BOTH headlights are working.  When I was growing up, we shouted “padiddle” when a “one-eyed” car was spotted.  From personal observation, there are lots of “padiddles” on our streets now; please check your headlights (and taillights), and get them fixed before winter weather sets in.  

For pedestrians: pay attention to where and how you are walking; if there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic.  Wear something reflective or light-colored when out at night, and always cross AT the marked crosswalk.  It may take some extra steps, but also may save your life.  Stay off your devices: last week, a young woman used the crosswalk near my office, but appeared to be texting on her device as she walked, oblivious to turning vehicles, four lanes of traffic and school buses.  That’s not multitasking; that’s dangerous!

Parking lots can be even more dangerous, since there are few marked pathways, and pedestrians and drivers alike jockey for parking spaces and walking routes.  Here again is where staying off your device is advisable.  Pay attention to vehicles pulling in and out of spaces; the driver may not be able to see you walking past that big SUV in the next space.  Recognize that you are walking in a vehicle travel lane and use extra care.  As Chief Davis noted in the podcast, “pedestrians won’t prevail in an interaction with a motor vehicle.”    

The Fairfax County Police Department also conducts a periodic one-day traffic enforcement campaign countywide and, last week, a pre-planned countywide blitz resulted in 280 citations issued.  The main violations were speeding, unsafe lane changes, and drivers on their phones, similar to the results of previous enforcement actions.  Whether driver or pedestrian, let’s all “Take A Moment,” slow down, pay attention, and save lives.  

In-person early voting for Fairfax County voters continues at the Mason District Governmental Center, 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale, and the Thomas Jefferson Library, 7415 Arlington Blvd. in Falls Church, through Saturday, November 5, 2022.  Weekday voting hours are 1 to 7 p.m.; Saturday hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Your regular polling place will be open on Election Day, November 8, from 6:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.