Casualty of the traffic wars
By Jennifer Cooke
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.
| October 1, 2010; 1:57 PM ET
Categories: Fairfax County, Virginia, traffic, transportation
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