Lead-footed and careless drivers — already a menace nationwide — have become a new, $10 million target for authorities in the nation’s capital.
Muriel Bowser, the mayor of the District of Columbia (shown right, in her news conference), says she is “troubled by the significant increase in the number of fatalities that we have experienced on our roadways in 2021,” and has announced a stepped-up road safety and improvement program, the Washington Post reported, noting:
“Traffic deaths have been up for two years, and advocates have questioned the city’s strategy in slowing the carnage. D.C. had 37 traffic fatalities last year, up from 27 in 2019. As of [May 12], the city had recorded 16 fatalities, six more than the same time last year, police records show. The trend is a setback for the District, which in recent years has pledged a “Vision Zero” approach to reduce fatalities and serious injuries, only to see the numbers rise.”
Bowser pledged to reallocate taxpayer dollars to speed:
- installation of curb extensions and medians
- putting on reflective paint on appropriate spots to protect pedestrians and bicyclists
- deploying electronic signs that warn drivers when they are speeding
- adding a dedicated bike lane at 18th and M streets NW as well as increasing signage and pavement markings there
The mayor offered stern words of warning to motorists to slow down and abide by road rules — or face heightened traffic enforcement, notably with more traffic camera, including speed and red-light cameras, the Washington Post reported, quoting her thusly:
“No one likes to get a speeding ticket, but as you’ve always heard me say, you don’t have to get it. What’s worse than getting a speeding ticket is getting hit by a speeding car. We’ve already seen a child killed this year, a cyclist killed, and pedestrians killed. And I’m sure that the drivers in those instances never thought that they would be behind a wheel when a person was killed.”
The newspaper reported that recent days have seen a brutal road toll:
“April was particularly dangerous on city roads. Eight people were killed, including five pedestrians, one bicyclist, a scooter rider, and a driver. Among those killed was a 29-year-old cyclist and safety advocate struck in a chain-reaction crash downtown; a 4-year-old who was crossing the street in Northwest; a 20-year-old Maryland resident riding a scooter; and two friends who were advocates for the homeless and were fatally struck while walking at Hains Point.”
The Wall Street Journal reported recently that speeding and increased road wrecks, injuries, and deaths rose during the pandemic and have caused increased concern for safety advocates and law enforcement as the nation returns to greater normality. Motorists apparently acquired a taste for speed when streets emptied, and now they can’t get their heavy feet off the gas pedal with dire consequences for others on the road, especially pedestrians and bicyclists.
In my practice, I see not only the harms that patients suffer while seeking medical services, but also the damage that can be inflicted on them and their loved ones by motorcycle, auto, and truck wrecks. We had made big progress in recent decades reducing the nation’s road carnage.
But this has been rolled back not only by the pandemic but more crucially by drivers who are impaired (drugged, drunk, sleepy) or distracted (texting, loud music, noisy passengers).
Now, we need to add speeding to the street menaces. This is grim and unacceptable news, because we can deal with these challenges and, with a minimum of thought and care, protect and save lives — drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
Please pay attention when you’re behind the wheel, and slow down. If you have the misfortune of getting involved in a bad vehicle crash, you and your loved ones may wish not only to call in your insurer early but also experienced and expert lawyers to deal with the extensive legal issues that may ensue. Your auto agent represents the insurer, remember, and these individuals, kindly and conscientious as they may seem, may not be trained to deal with complex legal and medical issues.
We have lots of work to do to keep ourselves and our roads as safe as possible.