Study Confirms DC Parents’ Fears: Drivers Don’t Care


They didn’t need a study.

Parents whose children have been hit by cars, were nearly hit by cars, or fear being hit by cars while walking or biking through DC knew before a study was even from media coverage this week that drivers often ignore speed limit signs.

They knew that many drivers do not slow down enough when entering a school zone.

They knew that many drivers don’t care enough to hit the brake, even during the pre-school hours when students fill the sidewalks and roads.

The study, which my colleague Luz Lazo spoke about on Tuesday, would be concerning, if so many people were not already involved.

Despite Signage, DC Drivers Don’t Slow Down in School Zones, Study Finds

As Lazo reported, analytics firm INRIX looked at traffic data around 27 schools in all four quadrants of the city. He found that drivers – despite signs saying they should slow down and watch out for children – were speeding and crashing in school zones at about the same rate as along other roads.

It showed that drivers didn’t care enough to obey the speed limit near schools, and especially not enough to brake near schools in low-income neighborhoods.

The study found that drivers were more likely to speed in Southeast and Southwest Washington, where a higher concentration of low-income college students live. An observation: 22% of drivers in the South-East, compared to 14% in the North-East, travel at least 10 mph above the school zone speed limit. Two other findings: Near a southeast school, more than 30% of drivers are driving over 25 mph during the hours when students arrive at school, and one block south of the school , 55% of drivers drive over 25 mph. .

Consider what this means for children growing up in these neglected neighborhoods. They’re already being asked more often than their wealthier peers to dodge bullets, and now we’re also expecting them to dodge thousands of pounds of high-velocity metal more frequently.

Too often, when it comes to road safety, the conversation pits drivers against cyclists and pedestrians. It becomes a finger pointing exercise. But it benefits everyone on the roads if DC achieves its Vision Zero goal of ending traffic deaths in the city by 2024. I say this as someone who often drives through the area for my job. I would welcome measures that could slow down my journey if they prevented me from hitting a child or having to write about another person who was injured or killed while riding a bike or walking through the city.

At age 5, she was killed while riding her bicycle in a crosswalk. His legacy should be safer streets.

Last year, I told you about several concerning incidents involving children crossing city roads. In a column I wrote about the life of Allison Hart, who was 5 when she was killed at a crosswalk, I shared how her mother posted videos of vehicles speeding past a stop sign in front of her child’s visible memorial on the sidewalk. These videos showed vehicles speeding past bouquets of flowers and a white ghost bike with training wheels. If ever there was anything to slow down a driver, it should have been this. Instead, video showed a bus speeding past with a message from Police Chief Robert J. Contee III on the side: “Help us end dangerous driving in the district.”

Too many children have already been injured or killed on the city’s roads – and with the school year about to begin again, we know more will happen if authorities don’t act quickly to put in place proven security measures. We know that, not just from this study. We know this from what the past few years have shown us.

Last year, the city experienced the highest death toll on the roads in 14 years. One such victim was Zy’aire Joshua, 4, who was fatally hit by a vehicle as he was crossing a road with his family. Another child, 9-year-old Kaidyn Green, was beaten outside her school in southeastern Washington in December and left paralyzed from the neck down. He died in June. Many other children have experienced close calls.

“It’s clear that just hoping drivers will slow down near schools doesn’t work,” DC Council member Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4) tweeted Tuesday, repeating what she told the Washington Post. In a series of tweets, she addressed the Safe School Routes Act, which she introduced and which the board is expected to vote on. It calls on the city to install road safety infrastructure, including raised crosswalks, speed bumps and sidewalk extensions, at intersections adjacent to schools and to increase traffic control in school areas.

Acknowledging that speeding in school zones and road deaths occur more often in low-income areas, Lewis George wrote, “The bill prioritizes improvements for schools in communities that have been left behind”.

This bill and the Carefree Walking Act, which was introduced by Council Member Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1) and would standardize the installation of safe street designs, has received support from the commissioners of Citywide advisory neighborhood. Last week, a letter signed by 35 of them and addressed to DC. The leadership of the Council has been shared with me.

“We are often the first to be asked by grieving loved ones to explain how these tragedies could have happened and what we are doing to ensure these tragedies do not happen again,” the letter reads. “These painful conversations and commemorations are no substitute for effective policy responses. We are committed to ensuring that every citizen of DC, from student to senior, can cross our streets without fear for their life and safety. We urge the Council to expedite two of the many innovative bills pending, to signal that DC is making pedestrian safety an urgent priority.

The letter spoke of the four people (three cyclists and a pedestrian) who had been killed in July and described the city’s toll as “a mockery” of DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s Vision Zero pledge to end road deaths.

Two words that sum up the dangerous streets of DC: “Updated again”

“We can and must do better,” the letter read, “our constituents deserve safe streets.”

It shouldn’t be up to grieving parents and fearful cyclists and pedestrians alone to pressure city officials to make the roads safer. Drivers must also be part of this effort. They need to start caring more about this issue and recognizing that their lives could be turned upside down if nothing is done to encourage or force more drivers to slow down in school zones. As a parent of two elementary-aged children, I’m hyper-aware of school zones. But in my twenties, I have no doubt that a speed bump or a stop sign made me slow down when my common sense did not.

A child on a bicycle was hit in a DC crosswalk – again

The advisory ward commissioner who wrote this letter, Meg Roggensack, serves the area where Nathan Ballard-Means lives. I told you about the 4-year-old last year. He was cycling with his mother when he was hit by a vehicle and thrown backwards in a way that left his bike twisted and his body, thankfully, virtually unharmed.

Afterwards, his father told me that every time they left the house, Nathan asked to be assured that he would not be hit by a car again.

His father knew he couldn’t make that promise.

He knew it even before a study confirmed it.

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