PHOTO: Pedestrian sign

Sign warning motorists to watch for pedestrians on a sidewalk-less stretch of Garrisonville Road in front of North Stafford High School.

WITH Christmas and New Year’s looming, most people are in a hurry—to shop, visit family members, meet up with friends, send packages, view holiday light displays and attend any number of seasonal concerts and parties. And when you’re in a hurry, you tend to not pay as much attention as you should behind the wheel.

So consider this a public service announcement reminding busy motorists to stay alert, sober, mindful and focused when driving in the Fredericksburg region, with its notorious traffic congestion.

According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, there have been 57 traffic fatalities in the 14-county Fredericksburg District (which stretches from Stafford County in the north to Gloucester County in the southeast) so far this year, compared with 68 last year. There have been 446 work-zone crashes, slightly above the three-year average of 418.



Of the 14,937 accidents that occurred in the Fredericksburg District between August 2018 and August 2019, the highest number (6,477) were rear-end collisions, followed by angle crashes (3,720) and hitting an off-road object such as a tree (1,757).

Many rear-end crashes are avoidable, caused by distracted drivers who are either going too fast, following too closely, or not keeping their eyes on the road, according to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. About 90 percent of rear-end accidents happened when the driver of the following vehicle was busy talking to a passenger, using a cellphone, eating or just not paying attention.

There have also been six pedestrian deaths in the Fredericksburg District to date, same as last year. The latest occurred in November at U.S. 1 and Tracey Streets in North Stafford as a 71-year-old man attempting to cross the street was struck and killed by an oncoming vehicle. Earlier that same month, a 34-year-old pedestrian was struck and killed in Spotsylvania County while crossing Jefferson Davis Highway near Market Street—the second pedestrian death in the vicinity in just one week.

Drivers need to be particularly alert when traveling in areas with pedestrians who should—but oftentimes don’t—cross busy streets only at clearly marked crosswalks. These tragic accidents are not always the driver’s fault, but drivers can do a lot to prevent them by keeping their speed down and their eyes on the road.

That extra minute or two saved by hurrying likely won’t make much difference in the grand scheme of things. But slowing down, and paying just a bit more attention to one’s surroundings, just might save somebody’s life this holiday season.

Correction

Sunday’s editorial, “Virginia has a sanctuary problem,” should have stated that Attorney General Mark Herring is calling for decriminalizing marijuana in Virginia even though possession of pot is still illegal under federal law.

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