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Fairfax County considers more speed devices after fatal Oakton crash

The scene of a crash that injured six people in Oakton (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County is looking into purchasing additional “Know Your Speed” signs after a fatal crash that killed two Oakton High School students, and seriously injured a third.

After the Oakton crash in early June, the devices were placed on Blake Lane, where the teenagers were walking on the sidewalk before they were struck by a speeding car. Police say the driver, an 18-year-old who has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, was going around 81 mph where the speed limit was 35 mph.

“These signs, that are currently limited in supply and moved to different locations across the county, were deployed to Blake Lane immediately following the crash, and were very much appreciated by the community,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said on Tuesday (July 19). “They have now been, understandably, rotated to another site. With a larger inventory of these devices, we could serve more communities for longer periods of time, but I am interested in the staff assessment of this idea.”

The Board of Supervisors directed staff to provide information and recommendations on purchasing more of the devices, which can take the form of signs on mobile trailers or fixed to posts as well as radar guns.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said police have told him no one is available to place the speed devices in his district. The Fairfax County Police Department used to have three people who were properly trained to place them, but two left and one was assigned to a different squad, he said.

“I think we can add all the devices we want, but if we can’t get them in place…Part of this I would hope is that the police will come back and tell us how they’re going to take the devices we have and get them out into the field,” Foust said. “And I ask that it not be relying on district by district. I mean, it’s a countywide problem.”

There are different kinds of devices, and some don’t require a special certification to utilize the devices, Palchik said.

With the FCPD experiencing staffing challenges, Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity wondered if civilians could be trained to set up the devices.

“One of the things we might be able to look at as a solution is do we really need police officers to set these up, or can we get other folks trained to set it up? I don’t know whether that’s an option,” he said.

Palchik also asked in her board matter that pedestrian safety be placed on a future agenda for the transportation committee.

In light of the June crash, a safety audit of the Blake Lane corridor will be completed, and the board is also looking forward to a pilot speed camera program in school and work zones. The corridor has been examined before and some initiatives were implemented, while some were found not to be warranted.

Palchick held a community meeting about safety on Blake Lane following the crash, and she is convening community and staff advisory groups, she said. Board Chairman Jeff McKay said he would like an update on a years-long effort to get stop-arm cameras on school buses before the next school year starts in August.

Board members also raised the possibility of a review of the school crossing program at the meeting.

“Sometimes, when we ask for additional safety patrol officers during school hours, they’re actually being used to cover for crossing guards,” Palchik said. “So, I think there’s a lot that we need to continue to review and to think strategically both in personnel and in technology that can help us reduce some of these speeds that are just, you know, over 80 mph in a 35 mph zone. I know we’ve seen more and more of these.”

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