Stop for Pedestrians in Fairfax County Crosswalks

Supervisors adopt ordinance amending county code to stop, not just yield.

Code § 46.2-924 states that the governing body of Arlington County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, and any town therein, the City of Alexandria, the City of Fairfax, the City of Falls Church, and the Town of Ashland may by ordinance provide for the installation and maintenance of highway signs at marked crosswalks specifically requiring operators of motor vehicles, at the locations where such signs are installed, to yield the right-of-way to or stop for pedestrians crossing or attempting to cross the highway.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on May 7 and, in a vote of 9-0 with Supervisor Pat Herrity (Springfield) out of the room, voted to require drivers to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.

The board approved an ordinance to amend Fairfax County Code Article 9 - Protection of Pedestrians. Section 82-9-2. – Right-of-way of pedestrians. and Section 82-9-7. – Penalty for violating Article 9. The ordinance is effective upon adoption.

During his staff presentation, Greg Searson of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation said the county's priorities were updating the code to match the state code and requiring drivers to stop for pedestrians at uncontrolled (unsignalized) locations. The county also aimed to prevent another vehicle from overtaking a stopped vehicle, the same as the state code.

The county's signage tells motor vehicle operators to yield to pedestrians. "We'd be able to change those out to match the county code to say stop for pedestrians," Searson added.

Additionally, according to state code, Fairfax County, as the governing body, could implement an ordinance mandating the installation and upkeep of highway signs. The signage would require motor vehicle operators to stop for people crossing or attempting to cross. Failure to do so could result in $100–$500 penalties.

In 2023, Va. Code § 46.2-924 changed from  among other things, requiring that the driver of any vehicle on a highway ‘yield’ to ‘stop’ “when any pedestrian crossing such highway is within the driver's lane or within an adjacent lane and approaching the driver's lane until such pedestrian has passed the lane in which the vehicle is stopped.”

Furthermore, with the 2023 change, "the driver of any other vehicle approaching from an adjacent lane or from behind the stopped vehicle shall not overtake and pass such a vehicle."

Mike Doyle commented during the public hearing. He founded the Northern Virginia Families for Safe Streets, an all-volunteer safety organization that works to end pedestrian and cyclist fatalities and injuries caused by motor vehicle drivers in the City of Alexandria and Arlington and Fairfax counties. 

Doyle provided testimony to support amending Article 9 of Chapter 82 of the Fairfax County Code. Doyle said that amending Article 9 could slow down drivers and prevent motor vehicle operators from running stop signs or passing another car, but it would not be "the magic bullet." Nonetheless, Doyle said, “We strongly urge you on behalf of all of our chapters because a lot of our members travel in and around Fairfax … to pass this ordinance." 
Northern Virginia Families for Safe Streets Fairfax chapter president Chris French questioned why they debated the amendments given authorization from Richmond (Va. Code § 46.2-924); the board had already approved the funds, and they were available.

Fairfax County has approved $95,000 for signs to deliver a consistent message to the driving public.

In his testimony, French called the board's attention to the "Board Packet" and noted that under the equity impacts heading, one word said none, which perhaps meant "no adverse equity impacts."

However, French disagreed with such categorization, citing a study by the Fairfax County Health Department, "Pedestrian Safety Isn't Just a Transportation Problem.“ “Black, brown, and minority pedestrians suffer two to three times more fatalities or serious injuries than their white counterparts. So, pedestrian safety is an issue of equity as well as a public health concern," French said.

French testified that of the 425 most recent “near miss” reports for Fairfax County, 282 involved crosswalks, with 222 citing drivers' failure to yield as the primary behavior of concern in the incident. 

French said he fed the information into ChatGTP, an analytical tool for summarizing the data. The tool highlighted noncompliance issues among motorists, such as failure to yield to pedestrians, ignoring crosswalk signals, or speeding through designated pedestrian zones. This indicated the need for enhanced enforcement and public education campaigns.

"Looking specifically at data involving mid-block crossings, the reports are similar: high speeds, posing risks to pedestrians, [and] the lack of clear signage or markings," he added.

French read three Northern Virginia Families for Safe Streets comments to conclude his testimony:

* "Theresa Crowley says crossing Beulah [a street in Franconia] means you're taking your life into your own hands. It doesn't matter if you're on the crosswalk; people speed up, swerve around you, etcetera. [It's] very dangerous when I'm crossing with my disabled son or alone."

* "Colleen Foster: Drivers do not slow or stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk. This morning, my son once again had a driver fly through the intersection while he was trying to cross it safely."
* “Max Gustafson: There's a crosswalk for my daughter to get across Balls Hill Road in McLean. Cars never stop for us and drive 40-plus miles per hour while we're in progress trying to get across the road."

French said he would not read the other 279 reports involving crosswalks in that data set. "But imagine that's three reports. This is happening across the county."

Supervisor Dalia Palchik asked Searson to confirm eligibility locations for signage.

Searson said that for unsignalized, uncontrolled locations there is a process that has to come through the board. “This particular process and the eventual board item coming in June is going to be about replacing the signs that currently exist. But for locations in the future,it's something that the board could approve for sure. 

Visit to report a near miss, dangerous location, or an existing crosswalk, signal, or sidewalk to the Northern Virginia Families for Safe Streets.