Thursday, December 29, 2005

Some People Need to be Hit

From The Washington Post:

Steve Laterra ignored the red "Don't Walk" signal and waded into four lanes of midday traffic on 14th Street NW yesterday. The Woodbridge man made it easily through the first two lanes but was forced to stop in the middle of the street to let a taxi whiz by -- inches away. Then, his eyes darting back and forth, he dashed across the final northbound lane.

"I'm from Manhattan, so it's not scary at all," he said from the safety of a sidewalk. "I make the assumption that the car will stop."

I hope it doesn't. People like that deserve to be run over They violate the law, obstruct traffic flow, and deserve the consequences of their actions.

That is the kind of death-defying assumption driving a D.C. effort to reduce pedestrian injuries and deaths. Pedestrian-related accidents in the District have increased this year, bucking a longtime downward trend, city officials announced yesterday as they outlined a public education effort aimed at drivers and pedestrians.


About 3,000 pedestrians a year are hit by cars in the region, and pedestrian fatalities account for 22 percent of total traffic deaths in the District, Virginia and Maryland, according to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board.


[A report this year on pedestrian injuries], by the Inova Regional Trauma Center, also found that most accidents happened when walkers crossed streets outside intersections and that the responsibility for crashes is split fairly evenly; drivers were cited in 52 percent of accidents.

The important thing to note here is that pedestrians are probably at fault the other half of the time. There are many terrible drivers in the DC area, but they at least generally obey traffic lights - pedestrians frequently do not. A common problem for drivers seems to be an unwillingness to yield to lawful pedestrians, but I have to wonder how much of this is due to the predominance of various types of jaywalkers.
The District has hired a full-time pedestrian-safety coordinator, made improvements to 20 of the most dangerous intersections and installed 1,200 countdown pedestrian signals since 2003, the most of any city, according to District officials. The District has also been running radio commercials this month about pedestrian safety and is paying police officers overtime to watch for traffic violations.
More enforcement is definitely needed, but hopefully they are watching pedestrians closely as well.

For now, violations continue without consequences:
At busy 14th Street and New York Avenue NW, traffic rules appeared to be followed only casually yesterday. Pedestrians crossed against the light; cars made turns cutting off pedestrians in a crosswalk; and taxis made unpredictable turns to pick up fares.
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