Don’t be surprised if you notice more cops on the road in the coming days.
The Fairfax County Police Department wants its officers to make their presence known this week with a “Road Shark” campaign intended to crack down on and deter aggressive and unsafe driving behaviors, such as speeding and distracting phone usage.
Joined by the Virginia State Police, which will also participate, the police department officially launched the first, week-long phase of the campaign yesterday (Monday).
“Traffic safety is community safety,” FCPD Deputy Chief for Operations Robert Blakley said outside the county’s Public Safety Headquarters. “…This offers us the opportunity to remind everybody to look down at that speedometer, set their mobile phone down and pay full time and attention to the conditions around them to increase traffic safety on our roadways.”
First introduced in 1999, Road Shark was supplanted over the years by other programs, but the FCPD has decided to revive it after the county saw an alarming increase in pedestrian fatalities last year.
There has been an increase in reckless driving throughout the county, including at the meet-ups of car enthusiasts that have become popular around the D.C. region, according to Blakley.
Already this week, police broke up an informal car meet on Willard Road in Chantilly after getting reports of “several cars driving recklessly,” the FCPD said in a Facebook post:
When officers tried to stop the cars from leaving, a 2001 BMW struck two marked Fairfax County Police cruisers. Officers took the 22-year-old driver into custody. He was charged with two counts of attempted malicious wounding of law enforcement, two counts of hit and run, driving while intoxicated and no operator’s license. He was held without bond. Thankfully, no officers or community members were hurt.
Blakley said the police department doesn’t have an issue with car meets, but participants should “respect the rules of private property and the laws on public highways and drive in a manner that’s safe and responsible and not going to get someone hurt or even killed.”
For the Road Shark campaign, officers have been instructed to be vigilant throughout their daily shifts for traffic violations, including speeding, distracted driving, school zone-related issues, and attempts to run red lights.
The campaign will particularly focus on locations known to see frequent crashes and other safety issues. Blakley pointed to Fairfax County Parkway and Popes Head Road in Fairfax Station as an example.
Though enforcement is a major component, officers won’t necessarily issue more citations or warnings, Blakley said. Instead, the FCPD hopes that its increased visibility in the community — including having crime prevention and traffic safety officers work with local schools — will lead people to adjust how they drive.
The campaign will be conducted in four phases during this year, with this week marking the first phase.
“The majority of people who drive too fast or maybe make an unsafe lane change, they’re probably distracted or not intending to drive aggressively,” Blakley said. “…When we engage in high-visibility enforcement — lots of police, lots of blue lights throughout the area — it causes us to remember. ‘I’m going to watch my speedometer, I’m going to pay attention.’ And that’s really the goal of this whole campaign.”
It’s going to be a cold and rainy weekend in Fairfax County, thanks to Tropical Storm Ophelia. Tracking to make landfall in North Carolina today (Friday), the storm is expected to reach Northern Virginia tonight.
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