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June 15, 2017

After Remington deaths, speed reductions sought

Medical helicopters on Route 29 near Remington after the accident last Thanksgiving.
The loss of 45 seconds in vehicle trip time is a small burden to impose in order to increase the likelihood that our citizens and those passing through Fauquier County will not be injured or killed in a traffic accident.
— Supervisor Chris Butler, Lee District supervisor
Troubled by a traffic accident that killed two people Monday just west of Remington, Fauquier’s board of supervisors wants state officials immediately to improve safety along portions of Route 29 in Southern Fauquier.

Representing the board, Vice Chairman Chris Butler (Lee District) requested in a June 14 letter that the Virginia Department of Transportation:

• Reduce the speed limit from 60 to 55 mph between the Opal and the Route 28 intersection.

• Reduce the speed limit to 45 mph at approaches to Freemans Ford Road.

• Install rumble strips at approaches to Freemans Ford Road.

“It cannot be disputed that a reduction from 60 mph to 55 mph will result in less accidents and less injuries and fatalities,” Mr. Butler, who serves on the county’s transportation committee, wrote in the two-page letter.

Such a reduction would extend travel time by 45 seconds, reads the letter (at bottom of story).

But, “the loss of 45 seconds in vehicle trip time is a small burden to impose in order to increase the likelihood that our citizens and those passing through Fauquier County will not be injured or killed in a traffic accident,” according to Mr. Butler.

The supervisors on July 13 plan to adopt a resolution formally requesting the speed reductions and installation of rumble strips.

VDOT this spring announced planned safety improvements, which do not include reducing the speed limit or installing rumble strips approaching the Freemans Ford Road traffic signals.

On Monday, two northbound vehicles on Route 29 — a 2000 Oldsmobile Bravado and a 2011 Toyota Corolla — stopped at Freemans Ford Road traffic signal, according to Sgt. Les Tyler of the Virginia State Police.

“As a 2003 Ford F-250 pickup truck approached the intersection, headed north on Route 29, it failed to stop in time,” Sgt. Tyler wrote in a press release. “The F-250 first struck the stopped Oldsmobile. The impact of that crash spun the Oldsmobile into the median where the Oldsmobile caught fire. Meanwhile, the F-250 then struck the Toyota.”

The Oldsmobile driver and passenger, Juan Lopez Jimenez, 37, and Hortencia Lainez Lopez, 38, both died at the scene. 

The pickup truck driver, a 34-year-old Gordonsville man, suffered minor injuries and received treatment at the scene, according to Sgt. Tyler.

An ambulance took the Toyota driver, a 59-year-old Culpeper man, to Fauquier Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

“A 46-year-old male passerby ran up to the burning Oldsmobile and tried to rescue the occupants,” Sgt. Tyler said. “The Culpeper resident suffered serious burns as a result of his valiant attempts and was flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital for treatment.”

Both men have been released from those hospitals.

The cause of the crash, which took place at 7:29 a.m., remains under investigation, with charges pending.

That accident marks the second fatal wreck in about seven months near the Freemans Ford Road intersection.

Fauquier County Rt 29 Letter to VDOT by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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bblimber · June 30, 2017 at 9:59 am
Arrrrrgggghhhhh!!!! Speeding is NOT the issue!

The ONLY solution is to get cell phones out of the hands of drivers. Period.
LoisBrowder · June 28, 2017 at 12:07 am
Good to hear that VDOT had announced planned safety improvements.
martinkus · June 17, 2017 at 12:56 pm
BAN THE USE OF CELL PHONES WHILE DRIVING! I have seen way too many "knuckleheads" distracted by their cell phones and not paying attention to the road while driving. These "knuckleheads" are a hazard and an accident waiting to happen. Maryland and the District have already done it. What is wrong with Virginia?
Pkroper22 · June 16, 2017 at 5:45 pm
Sorry, never left a comment before, but I am a co-worker of the "good samaritan" in the story and thought I'd chime in.

Biggest problem here is distracted driving. I think the point that is trying to be conveyed is that:
1. Lowering the speed limit would reduce the severity of the crashes
2. Even if it is only 5 mph we are talking about, reaction time and distance is improved with the slight change.
Most people will not see much significance with a 5 mph hour change, although if it means people are doing 65 instead of 70, then it is an improvement. Be honest with yourselves, most of us follow the "I'm good if I don't go more than 10 mph over the speed limit".
However, I believe how we are approaching the problem is misdirected. Crashes occur because of driver error, not problems with the roadway. To fix this, there need to be stiffer fines and penalties. Not by "making the roadway safer" so people can continue to keep the same bad habits of driving.
Distracted driving is a huge problem. But the culture towards it needs to change. There was a similar problem 40 years ago...alcohol. It took 10-15 years for the views of people to change towards drinking and driving. They began the ad campaigns, stiffer fines and penalties for DUI's, etc. When people are polled about what the penalty should be for a drunk driver who struck a vehicle, people answer with put them in jail. When those same people are polled for what the penalty should be for a distracted driver who did the same, they almost always say a fine. The thought process is still "it was an honest mistake/accident". We need to start looking at distracted driving the same as drinking and driving. In fact, worse. It has been proven that texting and driving is far worse than drinking and driving.
Until the culture changes, this will remain a problem. Laws need to reflect the seriousness of these "mistakes". We've started to move in the right direction, but it will take time to change our thought processes.
stadlerm · June 16, 2017 at 3:23 pm
I personally do not believe reducing the speed is the answer. I understand that the investigation is ongoing, but it appears from this article that the pickup driver failed to pay attention and stop prior to striking the other vehicles. Reducing the speed on the highway won't stop accidents if people aren't paying attention.
Silii · June 16, 2017 at 6:48 am
1Baldeagle: good suggestions. It is relatively easy for VDOT to change signaling sequences and timings. And, whomever has the authority, they need to get moving NOW on speed limit changes. I'd drop it to 35 approaching intersections like Freemans's Ford, etc., along 29. (Of course, that's no guarantee that people will follow those limits, especially if they're distracted. What was the Gordonsville driver's excuse for why he killed 2 people and caused permanent injury and suffering to others?) We are all suffering from distracted drivers. How many times have we nearly been side-swiped with nowhere to go to prevent it? At least once a day I have to give a quick honk to the driver in front of me to get going when the light turns green. Even then, I often see people continuing to look up then look down in rapid succession at their device. I find myself watching my rear view mirror at oncoming vehicles when I'm stopped at red lights and pump my brake pedal in order to "flash" my brake lights. It's very scary on the road now. I wish we had better solutions.

1baldeagle · June 15, 2017 at 8:29 pm
It is disappointing and sad to see more lives lost at an intersection that is on a straight section of highway with good visibility because many of today’s drivers are making bad decisions. Traffic is terrible. Drivers are speeding, being aggressive, and being distracted by cell phones and car dash boards that have a large assortment of dials, gages, buttons and levers.

However it is more disappointing that VDOT isn’t stepping up to the plate with some good solutions. After the earlier life was lost a few months ago VDOT said back in March that they were going to study the problem. After three months of study we have a cross over for law enforcement and we are getting rumble strips next week. WOW, what progress. I believe that VDOT needs to design roads that reduce the number of decisions that a driver can make.

Here are a few things that I have seen in other states in similar situations. Things that can be done quickly like tomorrow or at least within a week.

Reduce the speed limit to 45 MPH for ½ mile each side of the intersection.

Eliminate the “right turn on red” ability from Freemans Ford Road. Reason: There are no acceleration lanes on Route 15/29.

Change the sequence of the traffic signal. When the light changes to red on Route 15/29 the left turn lanes should move first followed by the green lights for Freemans Ford Road. Reason: Traffic turning left has a much better line of sight of approaching traffic on 15/29.

Eliminate the “left turn on flashing yellow” ability. Reason: Take the “I think I can make it” decision away from the driver. Also, the driver on 15/29 coming in the opposite direction has a green light and doesn’t expect someone cutting in front of him.

Why delay? And VDOT please no traffic circles.
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