Opinion | Washington DC traffic safety needs more resources to meet Vision Zero goal – The Washington Post

“The car just came almost drifting around the corner so fast that my mind couldn’t process exactly what was happening.” That was 9-year-old Peter Dziekan, describing being hit by a car while riding his bicycle home from his Northeast D.C. school. The boy’s words, the bruises still raw on his face and the home surveillance video showing a car run a stop sign, throw him from his bike and then speed away all underscore that the District must better address mounting traffic fatalities and injuries. “It happens a lot,” Peter said about dangerous driving, “and I want to fix that.”
About an hour before Peter was flung from his bike Friday afternoon, a car hit another 9-year-old boy as he walked by his Southeast D.C. school. That child was hospitalized, and the driver stayed at the scene. So far this year, there have been 39 traffic fatalities, including 16 pedestrians and three bicyclists, up from the 37 fatalities in 2020 and 27 in 2019.
The rise in traffic deaths comes despite Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s (D) 2015 Vision Zero, a policy with the goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2024. Similar policies launched in other cities have substantially reduced traffic deaths and injuries, but critics of the D.C. effort say the Bowser administration has not backed up its rhetoric with resources and tough decisions. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) called the program “just a hashtag,” and D.C. auditor Kathy Patterson has launched a review.
D.C. is not the only city that must deal with traffic fatalities and injuries — particularly those involving pedestrians. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, American drivers struck and killed more than 6,700 pedestrians last year, a 21 percent increase over 2019. That was the largest annual increase on record.
Among those pedestrians killed this year was Nina Larson, a 24-year-old aspiring opera singer. A car struck her in November as she crossed a street in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Northwest D.C. The Atlantic’s Elaine Godfrey was Ms. Larson’s neighbor; she witnessed the aftermath — the detectives’ chalk outline on the roadway — and she wrote a searing account that should shame the city’s dithering government officials. “Most pedestrian deaths are preventable,” she wrote. Experts call for more robust traffic-camera enforcement of all kinds of moving violations; road redesign such as speed bumps that would discourage reckless driving; and improved vehicle safety standards that strengthen safeguards for pedestrians.
Ms. Bowser can’t control how cars are designed, but she can strengthen enforcement and order engineering changes to ensure safer roads. We urge her to do so before more lives are needlessly lost.
Editorials represent the views of The Washington Post as an institution, as determined through debate among members of the Editorial Board, based in the Opinions section and separate from the newsroom.
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