Traffic accidents causing injury or death are on the rise, reversing decades of improvements in road safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that nearly 43,000 people died in crashes in 2021; a 10.5 percent uptick from 2020 and the highest toll since 2005. In 2021, there were 28 traffic fatalities in Prince William County; 10 more than the year prior.
Hoping to prevent future tragedies, Supervisor Kenny Boddye requested a Traffic Safety Work Session, where professionals from Prince William County’s departments of transportation (PWCDOT) and police, and from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), walked Board members through this complex issue. The discussion centered on the Three Es of Traffic Safety:
- Education – Efforts to encourage safer driving behaviors
- Enforcement – Monitoring roadways, ticketing, etc
- Engineering – Physical features that influence driving behavior, such as traffic lights, road diets and speed tables
Police Leuitenant Sean Peak noted that while the County’s traffic fatality rate is lower than the state average, even one death is too many, and almost all of these deaths are preventable. This is where education and behavioral changes come into play.
Nationally, 45 percent of all fatal accidents involve alcohol impairment, speeding, and/or not wearing a seatbelt. Additional leading crash factors are distracted driving and not adjusting to road conditions. This means there are behaviors we can all adopt to make our roads safer such as:
- Buckle up (this goes for passengers too!)
- Obey speed limits
- Don’t drive intoxicated
- Drive attentively; be well-rested and refrain from distractions like texting
- Drive for the conditions, allowing extra space between vehicles during inclement weather
Prince William County Police, VDOT, and the Department of Motor Vehicles all conduct regular outreach to encourage safe driving habits. Police can also speak to HOAs, schools and other groups by request. NHSTA has great online resources too: nhtsa.gov/road-safety.
Law enforcement also plays an important role in curbing unsafe driving behaviors. In addition to regular monitoring around the County, police have set up a Traffic Safety Hotline where residents can request targeted enforcement in areas experiencing ongoing violations: Call 703-792-5919 or visit pwcva.gov/trafficsafety.
Another way to increase traffic safety is by engineering solutions that make vehicles slow down. Road diets (reducing the amount of travel lanes), speed tables, raised crosswalks, and roundabouts are just some of the possible mechanisms that can be deployed. In most cases, the first step in securing these measures is determining whether your neighborhood meets the criteria for VDOT’s Residential Traffic Calming Program. In Prince William County most roads are owned and maintained privately (by HOAs, businesses, and homeowners) or by VDOT, which has the final say on standards and maintenance of its roadways. Under this arrangement, PWCDOT’s role in securing traffic safety solutions includes:
- Advocating on behalf of local transportation and traffic safety needs
- Determining whether an area meets VDOT traffic-calming criteria
- Developing a traffic calming plan for VDOT consideration
- Managing implementation of VDOT-approved traffic-calming plans (in most cases)
Visit occoq.org/pwc.trafficsafety to learn more about this process.