To the Editor:
Almost 10 years ago, I expressed my concern about Alexandria's apparent 10-year hiatus on traffic law enforcement in the Gazette. Needless to say, it fell on deaf ears. The City Council and the Police Department do not seem to understand the correlation between non-enforcement of traffic laws and loss of life and limb.
As an example, it is not possible to traverse many Alexandria streets without seeing bicyclists whizzing right through stop signs. Some of these cyclists are downright profane when challenged, often responding with the digitus impudicus, also known as the “bird.”
A few months ago, the police did issue tickets to a few traffic offenders for several days, but since that time. there has been little enforcement of traffic laws. A targeted enforcement is especially needed on Union Street, since high speed bicycle desperadoes race through all nine stop signs before they hit the bike path. If anything, the bicycle traffic violation rate is now higher than ever.
Bike riders aren’t our only traffic problem, since cars have also grabbed the spot light. The Alexandria Police Department needs to get out and start ticketing traffic violators. They could start with enforcing stop signs, since many drivers either go right through them, or do a "California roll," which is a little bit slower. Another very serious problem is cell phone use while driving, since these distracted yakkers pay no attention to stop signs, and turn on right without even stopping. Since a large number of accidents are attributable to using cell phones while driving, Alexandria should emulate the District of Columbia by outlawing the use of hand-held cell phones while driving a motor vehicle.
Still another problem is the blocking of traffic at key intersections. I can’t even drive down Prince Street during peak traffic hours due to cars blocking traffic at the Jefferson Davis Highway intersection, which would result in a very large fine in some other jurisdictions. In cities elsewhere (e.g., Baltimore or Washington, DC), uniformed officers direct and expedite traffic at critical junctures during peak traffic periods. It would be wise for Alexandria to emulate this practice by having Alexandria police officers stationed daily at a number of key locations in order to deter these law breakers and to keep traffic moving.
At the present time, we are not enforcing our own traffic laws. Unfortunately, I fear that I will be writing still another letter on this same subject 10 years from now, which equates to 30 years of apparent traffic lawlessness on our city streets.
Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet