Last year, 29 people died in pedestrian-related crashes in Fairfax County, according to the state’s Traffic Records Electronic Data System — the highest number in over a decade. Other counties in Northern Virginia have seen less than half of that number when it comes to these deaths.
Prince William County was the closest, with 11 in 2022. The Fairfax region overall (which includes NoVA and some surrounding areas), led the state, with 54 of the commonwealth’s 166 fatalities and roughly 36 percent of its injuries, (604).
In Fairfax County, 14 of the 29 deaths in 2022 happened between 6 p.m. and midnight. But pedestrian accidents in the region often happened earlier in the day, too — with 48 of 210 injuries occurring in the afternoon, between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Northern Virginia Families for Safe Streets, a group that stretches across Fairfax, Alexandria, and Arlington, aims to keep pedestrians safe while sharing the roads with cars.
The organization has created a tool for Northern Virginians to both report and check out spots that could be potentially unsafe: the Near Miss Incident Dashboard. The group defines a near miss as “an event in which a driver of a vehicle or a person walking, running, biking, or scooting had to suddenly stop, swerve, or otherwise move to avoid a collision.” NVFSS then relays these reports to local municipalities.
Most of these near misses have been reported in Alexandria and are often reports of the driver being allegedly at fault when coming into close contact with pedestrians. According to NVFSS, the factors that commonly lead to most pedestrian accidents are a driver’s speed and failure to yield.
Now, Fairfax County government agencies are looking to hold drivers accountable, while emphasizing the importance of being aware of your surroundings as a pedestrian. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a pilot program to install speed cameras in nine school zones and one construction zone in early 2023.
The goal of the program is to change behavior and make roads safer, officials said. There is an escalating fine structure, with a maximum of $100 for going 20 mph over the limit. “These cameras will help to protect pedestrians, especially around some of our most congested and vulnerable locations,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey C. McKay in a statement.
Fairfax County is also looking at what can be done to help pedestrians, instead of just punishing drivers, to improve road safety. Solutions include creating pedestrian signals for crosswalks and constructing better ADA-accessible curbs.
Officials are finding solutions to avoid these tragedies not just in the region, but nationwide. In February 2022, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration approved a new type of headlight for drivers that automatically provides extra light to unoccupied areas of the road, hopefully giving drivers a better view of their peripheral surroundings, where pedestrians and cyclists often are.
This story originally ran in our February issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.