High school graduations have begun, and thousands of Fairfax County students are leaving the familiar surroundings of classrooms and friends to embark on new life challenges. Seniors from Annandale, Falls Church, Justice, and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology — all located in Mason District — graduated to the cheers and tears of family and friends this week. Most ceremonies, except Annandale’s, are being held at Eagle Bank Arena at George Mason University, perhaps the busiest place in the county this week, as thousands of celebrators vie for the best parking spaces and seats as graduating classes rotate in and out of the cavernous arena.
For decades, the Annandale High School graduation occurred at the DAR Constitution Hall near the White House. It was a prestigious location, to be sure, but a long drive for students and their families trying to navigate D.C.’s notorious evening rush hour, with few parking options in the area. When the Covid-19 pandemic forced cancellation of classes and all school activities, Annandale’s administrators took the opportunity to reassess graduations via a community poll and decided to hold the 2021 ceremonies on the school’s football field. That was so successful, despite the Brood X cicadas’ hum competing with the speakers, that subsequent graduations have taken place there – and the weather has cooperated. Congratulations to all graduating students!
The night after graduation sometimes, sadly, brings news of vehicle crashes as students celebrate a bit too much. However, it was not a new graduate driving a speeding vehicle on Braddock Road that struck an occupied parked vehicle, flipped over, skidded along its roof, and hit the parked vehicle again before coming to a stop in front of aghast neighbors. At least one person was taken to the hospital with moderate injuries. This was not the first time that speed and driver inattention caused damage on Braddock Road near Columbia Pike, and it provides a reminder to all drivers about their responsibility when they get behind the wheel of a few thousand-pound vehicle. The speed limit on most neighborhood streets is 25 mph, and when vehicles are parked on one or both sides of a narrow street, even more care by the driver must be observed. Moving from a primary road with speed limits of 35 or 40 mph onto a neighborhood street obliges a driver to slow down and observe the 25 mph speed limit throughout the entire neighborhood. I recall the story of a traffic stop several years ago. The driver protested to the police officer, “but I’m in my own neighborhood,” but discovered that geography doesn’t matter. He got a ticket. The speed limit is the speed limit.
The Residential Traffic Administration Program (RTAP) provides an opportunity for residents to address speeding and cut-through traffic via a community process. Many neighborhoods and civic associations have maneuvered successfully through that process, and the result is the many speed humps and speed tables on local streets. Although the speed reduction plan must be endorsed by the Board of Supervisors, the affected community first must vote in support of the devices and their placement. Many neighborhoods are successful in garnering support, but some have not been able to come to agreement the first time around. Whether you love them or hate them, speed humps help slow traffic, but the primary responsibility for traffic safety belongs to the driver. Slow down, and save lives.