DC budgets for major plans to tackle rising problems in road safety
Muriel Bowser, the mayor of the District of Columbia, continues to push for ways to deal with a major menace for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists in the nation’s capital: road safety.
Her latest $19 billion budget, the Washington Post reported, includes sizable spending for upgraded bike-share intersections, more bikeshare stations, and building additional bike and bus lanes. The mayor is arguing with her spending plan for “expanded transportation options, reliable public transit, and less personal vehicle use.” As the newspaper noted, under the Bowser plan:
“[A]bout $10 million would be spent in the next fiscal year on ‘quick-build’ changes to roads, such as the addition of speed bumps, improvements on left and right turns, and moving stop signs to ensure better sightlines. It can also include replacement of signs and flexible posts used to form an arc around some street corners to encourage slower driving.
“On traffic enforcement, Bowser wants $9.4 million to add 170 new speed cameras, along with dozens more cameras that would target drivers who run red lights and stop signs, illegally use bike and bus lanes, or pass school buses. It would be the most significant expansion of the program since it launched two decades ago, tripling the number of speed cameras in the city.”
The Washington Post also reported on recent remarks by Deputy Mayor for Operations and Infrastructure Lucinda M. Babers about D.C.’s street safety planning:
“Babers said a staff analysis found that 170 more speed cameras would be needed to put them on every mile in high-crash corridors. The city plans to deploy the cameras to corridors with a history of severe crashes, she said, while also using some near schools to tackle concerns about crashes involving children walking to or leaving school. Bowser’s proposed budget also includes $9.4 million to add 100 full-time school crossing guards, which officials say will ensure coverage of all schools.”
Bowser also plans to answer critics, who say that the District has been far too lax in enforcement of traffic laws, the newspaper reported:
“To target drivers with outstanding tickets, the budget includes $752,000 to add nine positions in the city’s vehicle booting division, which would triple its size. The Department of Public Works, which handles ticket enforcement, has two vehicles and two two-person crews assigned to booting vehicles. The teams boot about 50 vehicles daily, interim director Michael A. Carter said at an oversight budget hearing of his agency late last month. Budget cuts years ago resulted in the division reducing the number of booting crews from 10 to two, while ushering in enforcement deficiencies that have been widely criticized.
“About 550,000 vehicles with D.C., Maryland or Virginia tags have two or more unpaid parking or traffic tickets that are at least 60 days old and eligible to be booted, according to city data. Many involve dangerous driving: Roughly 5,000 vehicles have tickets for traveling at least 21 mph over the speed limit, another 150,000 for running a red light and about 50,000 have fines for running a stop sign. ‘The additional nine [staffers] will give us greater bandwidth to boot more vehicles,’ Carter said. ‘Definitely will enhance our capacity a great deal.’”
Besides these more immediate ways to deal with traffic safety, the Washington Post reported that the District budget calls for millions of dollars more in longer-term projects, many targeted over the next half dozen years. These include: $36 million to spent for 10 more miles of protected bikeways, $57 million toward completing the K Street Transitway, $102 million toward bus projects, including adding more bus-only lanes and improvements to 50 priority corridors, $15 million to continue the expansion of Capital Bikeshare, and $125 million for new and improved trails, including the Suitland Parkway and Shepherd Branch trails in Ward 8.
The District and countless other state and local governments will get a boost for their road safety and transportation projects under the $1-trillion infrastructure bill, which won bipartisan support and has been signed by President Biden. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has announced that the administration will ensure that a chunk of infrastructure spending will be targeted to reduce record road carnage that surged during the coronavirus pandemic and has shown no sign of diminishing. It is a problem that cannot be ignored in the District, as well as in Maryland and Virginia.
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 wrecks involving cars, trucks, and motorcycles.
We are all, due to vehicular menaces, one unfortunate step into a busy intersection away from seeing our lives, families, and finances upended with short- and long-term harms.
As the New York Times reported of the increasing carnage on our streets and highways:
“[T]he number of traffic deaths across the country has soared, reversing some of the progress made over the past few decades. Although fewer people were on the road at the beginning of the pandemic, about 38,680 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020, an increase of about 2,500 from 2019, and deaths surged further in the first half of 2021. Officials have blamed more people speeding recklessly and using alcohol and drugs to cope with [the coronavirus] pandemic-related stress.”
So, it seems that another “d” must be added to problems that we motorists can improve to benefit the greater safety of all — destructiveness. It is unacceptable to speed and to recklessly disregard proven safety measures, including personal restraints, and common-sense conduct behind the wheel while purportedly navigating several tons of metal, glass, and plastic flying down the way. It is unacceptable to be distracted (by electronic devices, especially for texting, or loud music or conversation), to be drugged (with intoxicants like alcohol or marijuana or prescription medications). If you are sleepy, angry, or frustrated, don’t work out your difficulties by driving and putting yourself and others at risk.
We’ve got a lot of work to do to make our streets and highways safer for us all.