Leaders in Virginia are considering what can be done to make drivers slow down along a stretch of road near Oakton High School in Fairfax County, after a June crash left two students dead and a third student seriously hurt.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is looking at new ways to reduce speeding along Blake Lane. That’s where the students were walking on the sidewalk near the school along at Five Oaks Road, when they were struck by a car. An 18-year-old driver was charged with involuntary manslaughter. He was going 81 miles an hour in a 35 mph zone.
Supervisor Dalia Palchik, of Providence District, said the county had a “Know Your Speed” sign displayed after the crash, but it has since been moved. Palchik said that the signs are in limited supply and are rotated to various locations throughout the county.
“With a larger inventory of these devices, we could serve more communities for longer periods of time. But I’m interested in staff assessment of this idea,” Palchik said.
As first reported by Fairfax Now, the county is gathering information for alternatives, including recommendations on purchasing more speed-deterrent devices.
“In addition, we asked that the topic of pedestrian safety be placed on a future agenda of the transportation committee. So the staff and the board can discuss options for continued improvement,” Palchik said.
Supervisor John Foust, Dranesville District, voiced concern about the lack of qualified individuals to install speed devices in his district. This information was relayed to him by police.
Palchik said one solution could be “making sure that we start with ones that definitely don’t even require additional support that can be done with the existing staffing,” she said.
Looking at staffing needs is also something “we could absolutely look at … And I know that the chief is also looking countywide at the staffing issue, but I think they can work in conjunction. But there are many new technologies that do not require that special certification, as well,” Palchik said.
She also raised the possibility of a review of the county’s school crossing program. Because of a police officer shortage, Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity raised the idea of looking into whether training civilian community members to set up speed-deterrent devices is an option.
A road safety audit of the Blake Lane corridor is also being planned.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said the issue needs to be addressed because the corridor along Blake Lane has become popular for pedestrians.
“I think the biggest tragedy in this one, obviously, was the speed coupled with the fact that these were kids walking home from school, on the sidewalk, doing what they were supposed to do. They weren’t crossing midblock; they weren’t standing in the median. They were walking on the sidewalk,” McKay said.
He added that this is an opportunity “for us in a transportation committee to look at not only more of these speed devices,” but also another safety item McKay said he and Foust have “literally been working on for years, with the schools is to get an update on their stop arm camera installation for school buses, too.”
“Before we know it, school is going to be back in session here, and we have been promised for many years that technology will be deployed; and I’d also like to ensure that we get an update on that before the start of the next school year as a part of this,” McKay said.