And things are only getting uglier.
Instances of road rage and aggressive driving are skyrocketing, and the fatality rate in Northern Virginia — including high-usage spots on Interstates 66 and 95 in Prince William County — is on the same upward trajectory.
But law enforcement agents from all over the region want drivers to know that help is on the way; the Smooth Operator is in effect.
For the third straight year, police departments from Maryland, Northern Virginia and the District will work together in the coming weeks to crack down on instances of aggressive driving.
“Aggressive driving is getting worse, not better, in this area,” said Virginia State Police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell at the program’s kickoff news conference at the Dale City I-95 rest stop Monday morning.
“Be it from construction or congestion, there’s an increased frustration among drivers. [Smooth Operator] is a unique program; the hope is that you won’t be able to go very far without seeing a police officer on the highway,” said Caldwell.
The mission statement for Smooth Operator, which began in Virginia a half-decade ago, is to be a “a coordinated program to find solutions for the aggressive driving problem.”
This includes speeding, tailgating, unsafe lane changes, and running red lights and stop signs.
In four week-long increments, including now until Saturday, as well as ones in June, July and August, law enforcements agents will closely target those who drive aggressively.
Last year’s program, which ran approximately 18 weeks, resulted in 92,411 citations and nearly 8,000 warnings for aggressive driving.
And this year, expect an even closer watch.
Leesburg Sen. William C. Mims, R-33rd, successfully pushed legislation through the General Assembly this past session that charges those aggressive drivers who intend to injure another person with a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Drivers who either create a hazard or that are intended to intimidate or harass another person could be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor; the penalty for such an offense is a fine of up to $2,500 and six months in jail with four points on a license.
“Aggressive driving has become an epidemic,” Mims said. “Smooth Operator is about telling people that their lives and their children’s lives are more important than shaving a few seconds off a trip.”
A lesson that Omar Samaha, 18, of Centreville, learned too late.
Four days before Samaha’s 18th birthday, he killed his best friend, Chris, when he was driving too fast and lost control of the car, which went airborne and crashed upside down.
Not long after Samaha came to, he learned that Chris was dead.
“I wish I could go back and change what happened that night,” Samaha said at the press conference. “But there’s no going back. After graduation, when my [classmates] are at the beach, I’ll be going to jail. But I punish myself everyday far greater than anything anybody can put me through.”