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Spike in DC Traffic Fatalities Prompts Vision Zero Campaign Overhaul

By: Joseph Cammarata

DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has unveiled the city’s latest efforts to crack down on traffic violations and reduce risks on public roads. In an announcement made earlier this week, Mayor Bowser unveiled plans for revitalizing Vision Zero, a program initiated in 2015 with the goal of reducing the number of traffic-related fatalities in the city to zero.

The revamp of Vision Zero was prompted by a recent spike in fatal traffic accidents, including car accidents and collisions involving bicyclists and pedestrians, as well as criticism from local residents and safety advocates who say the current program is ineffective. The new Vision Zero initiative features immediate, pending, and proposed plans, including:

  • Immediate Safety Campaign – On October 25, law enforcement throughout Washington, DC launched a three-day safety enforcement campaign. Officers increased their focus on traffic violations, speeding motorists, and drunk drivers at various locations across the city. They also targeted drivers who block intersections, crosswalks, and bike lanes, also known as “blocking the box.”
  • Red-Light Cameras – Officials will be evaluating a potential increase in the number of red-light cameras citywide, and whether DDOT should assume control over automated enforcement programs from DC police to improve ticket processing times and expedite installation of new traffic cameras.
  • Turn Restrictions – The city will consider prohibiting drivers from turning right on red lights at roughly 100 locations, including intersections near schools, bike lanes, or within the central business district, where pedestrians face the greatest risks of being struck by vehicles. They will also consider greater restrictions on left turns at some intersections.
  • Tougher Penalties – New regulations pending with the DC Council will create more severe penalties for traffic infractions in order to deter risky driving behaviors, including speeding and distracted driving, and are expected to take effect in December.
  • Infrastructure Improvement –City transportation officials will be improving intersections with multiple turn lanes, eliminating sidewalk gaps, and adding more protected bike lanes. DDOT will also expand designated rideshare pickup and drop-off zones and evaluate street design improvements to reduce collision risks.
  • Driver Safety Tests – A proposed measure would require hundreds of thousands of licensed DC motorists to take “refresher” tests when renewing their driver’s licenses. The DMV will explore various methods, including engaging quizzes, to test drivers and emphasize safety near bicyclists, pedestrians, and scooter riders.

The new plans, while welcomed, are questioned by many who are skeptical about whether they will receive the support, resources, and enforcement attention necessary for any meaningful reduction in traffic deaths. That’s a warranted concern given current data on traffic fatalities in the city, which show traffic deaths actually increased since Vision Zero was first launched. According to statistics, 2018 has been a dangerous and deadly year in the District:

  • There have already been 31 traffic deaths citywide.
  • The 31 deaths thus far is one more than the total number of traffic fatalities reported in the entirety of 2017, and an increase over the 28 deaths in 2016 and 26 in 2015, when the initiative started.
  • Nearly 40% of the traffic deaths so far in 2018 involved pedestrians. The rest included 3 bicyclists, 8 vehicle occupants, 7 motorcyclists, and one victim riding a scooter.

Protecting Your Rights After a Preventable Accident

While Vision Zero’s goal may be commendable, it is an unfortunate fact that public roads will always be dangerous places. For those who do suffer preventable harm in traffic-related accidents, our firm is here to help.

CSCS handles all types of traffic accident cases, including:

  • Auto accidents – Motor vehicle accidents come take many forms, from intersection accidents and single- or multi-vehicle collisions to commercial truck accidents and bus accidents involving private and public transit operators. Whether wrecks involve drunk drivers or any other infraction or act of negligence, victims have a right to seek financial recoveries for their losses by holding at-fault parties accountable.
  • Pedestrian and bicycle accidents – Vision Zero’s reinvention places considerable focus on our most vulnerable roadway users. As the numbers show, victims of pedestrian accidents and bicycle accidents can suffer extensive damages, which makes full and fair compensation all the more important to their futures and their families. Under recent legislative changes we have discussed on our blog, injured pedestrians and bicyclists who contribute in some way to their own accidents and injuries are no longer barred from seeking compensation, provided they are less than 50% at fault.
  • Rental bike and scooter accidents – Rental electric bikes and scooters from companies like Lime, Bird, and Skip have become increasingly popular in major metro areas like DC. Though they are convenient and cost-efficient, their novelty can create challenges when victims seek compensation following avoidable injuries, whether that be against a negligent motorist, property owner, or product manufacturer.
  • Serious injuries / wrongful death – In the most severe crashes, and in many involving pedestrians and cyclists, victims can suffer serious if not fatal injuries. As emotionally difficult and high stakes matters, catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases demand the attention of proven and resourceful legal representation who can guide families through the process, and obtain full and complete compensation for the loss.

CSCS: Trusted by DC Victims & Families for Over 45 Years

Our legal team at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. applauds the city’s latest efforts and renewed focus on roadway safety, especially in terms of protecting pedestrians and cyclists. As a firm with a long-standing history of fighting for victims and families, we know the devastating setbacks and suffering that can accompany preventable accidents. Education, awareness, action, and enforcement are critical to protecting the public and saving lives – as is, perhaps equally so, ensuring accountability for negligent and wrongful acts.

To learn more about our award-winning team and the cases we handle, or to discuss a potential case of your own, contact us for a free consultation.