Commentary, Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Speeding.  Running red lights.  Passing on the right.  Turning right on red without stopping.  These errant driver behaviors, and more, are seen every day, frustrating responsible drivers and endangering pedestrians, cyclists, other drivers and their passengers.  Fair warning – the third wave of Fairfax County’s “Road Shark” campaign began this week.  The campaign is a coordinated effort by Fairfax County, in partnership with the Virginia State Police, to deter aggressive driving, reduce crashes, and change driver behavior in the county.  

Wave One of Road Shark resulted in 3,776 citations and warnings issued.  Wave Two generated 5,025 citations and warnings.  If the past is prologue, Wave Three might see a couple thousand more citations than previously, although one would hope that the numbers would decrease, not increase.  Officers will be increasing visibility and traffic enforcement efforts, so you will see more motor squad officers in addition to regular cruiser patrols. 

Driver behavior, reckless driving, driving under the influence – all seemed to factor into a horrific pedestrian fatality on Columbia Pike at 2:13 a.m. Sunday morning.  The circumstances of the incident are still are under investigation, but preliminarily, it appears that the driver of a BMW hit a pedestrian near Columbia Pike and Lincolnia Road, did not stop, and dragged the man more than a mile to where he was found deceased near the Powell Lane intersection.  Responding officers tracked “fluids” and found the car and driver nearby.  The driver was charged with DUI and transported to the Adult Detention Center; other charges are pending.  The Road Shark campaign might not have prevented this tragic incident, but it is a stark reminder to all about why such a campaign is needed and, hopefully, heeded.  

About seven percent of the U.S. population, mostly males, is colorblind, but that probably is not the excuse for most of the red-light runners at major intersections in Fairfax County.  It is not unusual to see one, or maybe even two, vehicles blast through a red light, not on the yellow, but after the cross-traffic light has turned green.  I often hesitate when the light turns green at some intersections, even at the risk of honking horns behind me, just to be safe.  Drivers blasting through STOP signs are even more ubiquitous.  Some drivers actually stop, but many don’t even try to slow down at STOP signs.  When I was learning to drive, a full stop meant you could feel the motion of the vehicle go back slightly when you braked; the notorious “California stop” was a slow braking, but not an actual stop.  Unscientific data from my front porch reveals that more than half of drivers simply slide through the nearby intersection; about a quarter of drivers come to a full stop.  A constituent once complained about a traffic stop for ignoring a STOP sign.  His excuse?  “I was in my own neighborhood.  Why aren’t the police out there catching the bad guys?”  STOP signs aren’t a suggestion; they apply to all drivers, even in your own neighborhood.  The violation is a simple traffic infraction, but the fine could be as high as $250.   Slow down, pay attention, and save lives.

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


  • Penny Gross

    Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at