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COLUMN: Running red lights is no joke, and yet we just can’t stop doing it

The National Coalition for Safer Roads wants you to know how dangerous and rampant red-light running is.

The group released a report last week showing that more than 3.5 million drivers ran red lights in 2013.

The numbers are no doubt much higher because the sample size was small—only 2,200 red-light cameras in 20 states.

In Virginia, eight cameras in Arlington and Falls Church captured 10,552 red-light runners last year.

That’s about 29 a day.

Heck, you can see that many red-light runners in an hour or so at the Princess Anne and William Street intersection while sipping coffee at Hyperion Espresso.

The problem is no joke, though.

In 2011, some 8,500 people died nationwide in crashes at intersections.

If you think about it, red lights aren’t so awful. They give you a chance to check your text messages without running off the road.

Dear Scott: I know you have addressed [the State Route 208 and Smith Station Road] intersection before, and I believe a fix is in the works, but this is truly one of the most dangerous situations ever caused by consistent heavy volume of traffic coming from the Spotsylvania Parkway to the 208 interchange.

This traffic often backs up almost to where the Parkway turns into Smith Station Road, and to speed up the flow, as the cars and trucks and police and fire engines get even with the old school board office, they create a right-turn lane to use at the shopping center and to turn right onto 208.

In your last article about this you said that VDOT says the road is too narrow for two lanes and is therefore not marked for two lanes … but it seems no one, including police, follow this.

I actually saw an accident where a car turning left into the shopping center was bashed by a car running at a 45 mph speed in that supposedly non-existent lane … and I stayed and watched the driver from the non-existent lane given the ticket (to their great surprise).

Until a widening of this section of Smith Station can be built (I know—it will cost a lot of money) why can’t VDOT yellow paint the section that is wide, but not wide enough, with some kind of X marks so no one will get killed using the road incorrectly?

On top of all this, this area of road runs right in front of Courtland High.

This is truly a disaster waiting to happen!

—Ken Lipscomb, Spotsylvania

There is a $1.7-million project at the intersection set to start next summer.

Smith Station will be widened to three lanes (left, through and right lanes) and the northbound left-turn lane will be lengthened.

The changes should reduce the backups, cutting the peak jams from 4,375 feet to less than 600 feet, VDOT’s Kelly Hannon said.

As for immediate concerns, she said VDOT will add a solid stripe to the section of road leading to the shopping center.

So hopefully drivers will see it’s a shoulder and not a lane.

She said VDOT believes this is an affordable, temporary fix for the problem.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

 

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/newsdesk/2014/05/26/column-running-red-lights-is-no-joke-and-yet-we-just-cant-stop-doing-it/