Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Lack of Enforcement of Right on Red ViolationsA while back we met with Fairfax County Police to discuss the problem of motorists turning right on red without stopping, and the danger that this presents to pedestrians and cyclists. We were joined in the meeting by a cyclist who was severely injured while crossing the Dulles Toll Road exit ramp at the Fairfax County Parkway Trail.
During the meeting we showed a short video taken that morning at the intersection of Wiehle Ave and Sunset Hills Road, adjacent to the Wiehe-Reston East Metro Station. The video shows several motorists running the red light on Sunset Hills Rd while turning right on red. Motorists are looking left for oncoming traffic, ignoring pedestrians and cyclists approaching from the right. Even when there is a WALK signal, motorists often ignore it and run the red light.
Our goal was to encourage police to increase enforcement of this illegal activity. We were very disappointed when after seeing the video one of the officers said that it would be difficult to have a ticket hold up in court based on the motorists' actions. We were told that the judge would likely ask "Did the motorist slow down and look for oncoming traffic." and according to the officer the answer would be "Yes."
What is so discouraging about the answer is that while motorists may have been looking for motor vehicle traffic approaching from the left, they were totally ignoring ped/bike traffic coming from the right. My wife and I carry whistles that we use to get motorists' attention at this intersection. It's one of the most dangerous places we ride, and there is a lot of ped/bike traffic going to and from the Metro station.
The take away from the meeting was that we have a lot of work ahead of us. The police and the court system is biased toward motorists and their illegal activities that have become accepted behaviors, such as running red lights when turning right on red, and speeding. It's common knowledge that unless a motorist is going 10 mph over the speed limit they will not be cited. I'm not optimistic that this bias will change any time soon.