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Posted at 1:57 PM ET, 10/ 1/2010

Casualty of the traffic wars

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Jennifer Cooke
Annandale

There is a war going on in the otherwise peaceful neighborhoods of Fairfax County, a war that has spilled into these neighborhoods from the Beltway and other notoriously overcrowded roads in Northern Virginia. This war is between people who have forgotten their moral obligation to drive slowly and safely, especially through residential neighborhoods, and those of us who wish to remind those people to drive slowly and safely, especially through residential neighborhoods.

And now in Burke, a man who by all accounts was a good, civic-minded citizen has apparently paid with his life for fighting this battle.

The Winterset subdivision of Annandale, where I live, is a neighborhood of nice homes on tree-lined streets, filled with hard8working middle-class families, wonderful schools, parks and nature trails. If you were to drive through this neighborhood on a weekday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., you might well believe you had found heaven. But from 7 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m., be sure you enter my neighborhood prepared to fly down my road, because the vehicles behind you slow for no one.

For years we have tried to get something done about the problem. In that time, a child was struck, and a dog was killed. We were granted stop signs a few years ago, but they are easily and routinely ignored. Now, we are trying to get speed humps installed. But the process has turned out to be inordinately burdensome, not for those speeding, of course, but for those of us who live in this neighborhood and whose children play in the yards.

But to bring peace to our neighborhood, we soldier on in this war. We have completed the traffic study. We have (finally) found residents willing to allow the humps to be installed in front of their homes. Now we must secure well over 50 percent of our subdivision’s support on a ballot that we must distribute and collect.

After all of this, and assuming the state of Virginia has funds available, we hope to realize our simple dream of slowing cars down as they travel past our homes.

But truth is, we know we need more help. Speed humps can only do so much. And many argue that they are, like the stop signs, of almost no use. In fact, those opposing their installation say they could make things worse by bringing the wrath of upset drivers down upon our neighborhood.

After the slaying of Stephen A. Carr, it’s hard to argue that they’re wrong.

Carr worked for over a year to get a speed hump installed on his street in Burke. That speed hump led to an altercation resulting in assault charges against a neighbor who was reportedly angered by it. On Sept. 12, days before the case was scheduled to go to trial, the neighbor allegedly burst into Carr’s home, tied him up and fatally shot him.

At what point does moral callousness explode into something more deadly? My fear is greater now. I used to feel invincible when someone flipped me off, shouted, honked or cursed at me, but no longer will I stand up from weeding to ask drivers to slow down. Now I fear not just for the lives of children but for my own safety as well.

What we really need in our neighborhood, what we are in fact begging for, is a police presence. Yes, the police are burdened with “real” crimes. But as Carr’s death illustrates, even in the “quiet middle-class neighborhoods,” anger over who has the right to do what with our roadways can reach a breaking point. In the wake of one such breach, a good man is dead.

I am sure that Stephen Carr, in his wildest dreams, never imagined that fighting to have a speed hump installed in his neighborhood might be a cause for which he would end up paying with his life.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | October 1, 2010; 1:57 PM ET
Categories:  Fairfax County, Virginia, traffic, transportation  
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Comments

Great article. Good luck to you and your community in getting the speed humps installed. Mr. Carr did the right thing and so are you - may he rest in peace!

Posted by: Annandale3 | October 1, 2010 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Spent $391 this week repairing a broken axle in my car, broken when going slowly (less than 10 mph) over a deteriorating speed hump in my neighborhood. I'm not against speed hump, but I'm also not happy that I had to fix my car.

We have many speed humps in our neighborhood, and residents are pushing for more. What is interesting is that we recently had a county police officer speak at a community association meeting about speeding in the neighborhood. His observation was that whenever the police monitor traffic speeds here, the vast majority of offenders are residents of the community, not people cutting through.

Posted by: jjtwo | October 2, 2010 6:51 AM | Report abuse

Just goes to again show: Cannot have it all. One either lives where they think the schools are good, but they pay a price with a 1 1/2 hour commute to go 25 miles or less; or they live where schools are not perceived good and are closer to home.

Regarding speedbumps,they can slow folk down and good luck that they slow the folk down in your neighborhood.

Regarding the related murder, just proves again that crazy folk live everywhere - not just in certain places. VA too. Fairfax County also.

Posted by: morrisday1 | October 2, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

As one writer already noted. most speeders live in the neighborhood. My Fairfax County neighborhood battled for speed humps, even though the "cut through" traffic was mostly neighborhood traffic. There were a number of cars damaged (yes, even at slow speeds) going over the speed humps. At least two houses adjacent to humps that were put up for sale after the humps went in never sold. They are now rentals that look rundown and detract from the overall neighborhood. The speed humps were not worth all the effort.

Posted by: baileyfx | October 3, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

What a horrible, tragic end to someone's life, and over something intended to keep others safe. It would be great to see a return to civility as the norm, and not be afraid to defend one's neighborhood's safety by just asking drivers to slow down.

Posted by: HappyGirl2 | October 3, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

It would be great if everyone obeyed the law; however, reality shows us that most people do not, hence the need for police presence or speed humps (both would be nice!) Sorry to hear that you had to fix your car, but my guess is that your car would have broken the next time you pulled into your driveway or bumped a curb. Speed humps will not damage your car when drive over at the proper speed (15 mph).

Posted by: Annandale3 | October 3, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

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