Sharp increases in both pedestrian-related violations and bicycle-related vehicle hit-and-runs within the county have police concerned as they step up their enforcement efforts on both fronts.
According to Fairfax County police, the number of citations written for pedestrian-related violations over the last two calendar years in Fairfax County has increased 173 percent, going from 213 in 2010 to 582 in 2012.
Just last week, 54-year-old Falls Church resident Herman Bartlett was struck and killed in the 5800 block of Leesburg Pike in the Bailey’s Crossroads area when he apparently crossed the road in front of a vehicle. Police said the incident happened at about 10:50 p.m. on April 4. Police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said Bartlett was transported to Inova Fairfax Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
On March 5, Ai Ying Zhu, 53, also of Falls Church, was crossing Gallows Road around 9:50 p.m. when she too was fatally struck by a vehicle.
According to Caldwell, in 2012 between June and August, Fairfax County police gave out nearly 550 warnings and 175 tickets to both pedestrians and motorists for violations on Gallows Road alone. “Pedestrians and drivers need to both be vigilant when sharing the road,” she said.
Police said that starting this month, enforcement and education efforts concerning pedestrian safety have been stepped up across Fairfax County. Efforts began April 6 with a focus on areas near the two Metro stations in the McLean District. Commuters in those areas this month can expect to see officers monitoring crosswalks, posting electronic signboards and strictly enforcing traffic laws for both drivers and pedestrians. Tickets and warnings will be issued for drivers who are exceeding the speed limit, not yielding to pedestrians and committing other violations. Pedestrians will also be expected to use crosswalks and comply with existing laws.
“That also goes for cyclists,” said police spokesman Bud Walker, who compiles bicycle crash statistics for the Fairfax County Police Department.
According to Walker, the number of bicycle-related vehicle hit-and-runs in which a cyclist was struck and a motorist left the scene has increased more than 100 percent over the last two years. “There were five in 2010, six in 2011 and in 2012 we had 12,” he said.
Walker says that motorists involved in a collision are legally required to pull over and check on the condition of a fellow motorist, cyclist or pedestrian. “It only becomes a crime when they do not,” he said. “If a motorist does the right thing, no crime has been committed and generally any subsequent legal repercussions only result in a fine. But if a motorist leaves the scene, there can be very serious consequences.”
According to Virginia code, any hit-and-run that results in damage of $1,000 or less is considered a class one misdemeanor and punishable by up to a $2,500 fine, but if someone is injured or killed, or if the damage results in more than $1,000, it automatically becomes a class 5 felony punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.