The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Smartphone walkers’ lack of attention a concern
Have you ever heard the phrase “smartphone walkers”?
No, they aren’t new zombie characters on “The Walking Dead.” But they could be.
The phrase, coined by the Japanese (Aruki Sumaho in their language), describes people who stare at their smartphones while walking and become disoriented, according to news reports.
In Japan it’s a growing issue, with reports that 18 smartphone walkers stumbled onto Japanese railroad tracks in 2011, and one electronically entranced boy fell off of a station platform this year.
The Japanese government and rail companies have started ad campaigns to keep these walkers safe.
One sign, according to reports, reads: “Walking while using a smartphone is dangerous But those people probably didn’t see this announcement.”
While we’re talking trains—so far it looks like the Virginia Railway Express has survived the federal sequester.
In July, there were 398,106 rider trips on the commuter rail system. That’s almost 5,000 more than last July, according to VRE figures.
The Amtrak step-up rides may be helping, as more VRE customers used that service last month than at any time before.
Dear Scott: Traveling east on Centreport Parkway, at the traffic light for traffic exiting southbound Interstate 95, there is one lane for all traffic whether continuing on Centreport or turning right to I–95 south.
Cars regularly use the emergency/breakdown lane on the right to make a right turn on red for I–95 south.
Would it be possible to make a right-turn lane and straight lane utilizing some of the existing median to alleviate this dangerous situation of using the emergency/breakdown lane?
I have personally experienced this when making the right turn, and a vehicle was in the emergency/breakdown lane and nearly rammed into me.
—Kevin Black, Spotsylvania
The Virginia Department of Transportation studied this spot and noticed a lot of drivers turning right at the ramp, especially in the afternoon peak, said spokeswoman Kelly Hannon.
She said they agree that a right-turn lane would be a good idea.
VDOT will look into making the shoulder a right-turn lane by changing the lane markings. Hannon said they’ll have to inspect the pavement to ensure that it has adequate thickness. If this can be done, she said the change could be made within the next several months.
If that can’t be done, “VDOT will explore converting the median, currently striped out, to a thru lane, and using the current thru lane as the right-turn lane,” Hannon wrote in an email.
But there’s a caveat to that solution.
“This option would be quite costly due to the amount of pavement marking eradication that would be required,” Hannon said. “We would weigh this project with the other traffic engineering projects in the region, and could provide a better schedule picture next summer when more information will be available about funding levels.”
Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436