Nov 30, 2023 - News

D.C. traffic deaths hit 16-year high

Data: Metropolitan Police Department. Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Metropolitan Police Department. Chart: Axios Visuals

D.C. traffic deaths are up more than 60% this year from the same time in 2022, reaching the highest total in 16 years.

Why it matters: D.C.'s efforts to reduce pedestrian and motorist deaths — known as Vision Zero — have failed so far, despite investments in bicycle lanes, lowering speed limits, and new speed cameras.

By the numbers: As of Wednesday, the city has recorded 45 traffic deaths, including 17 pedestrians and two bicyclists.

  • This year's overall increase was tied to more driver and passenger deaths.
  • Eleven drivers and seven passengers have died so far this year, up from five drivers and three passengers a year ago.

Catch up fast: Mayor Muriel Bowser created the Vision Zero campaign in 2015 to eliminate all roadway fatalities by 2024.

  • In 2015, the city had 26 deaths, down from a peak of 54 in 2007. The number picked up again during and after the pandemic.
  • Less traffic congestion and an uptick in speeding drivers likely led to the deadlier crashes, per a Vision Zero report from last year.

Zoom in: The District last year lowered the speed limit from 30mph to 25mph in key corridors like Connecticut Avenue NW and New York Avenue NE.

  • In 2020, the city's default speed limit dropped to 20mph — on streets where no other speed limit signs are posted (think of your typical residential side street).

Between the lines: Changing traffic patterns can take years. A plan for bicycle lanes on Connecticut Avenue has drawn opposition from some residents and businesses, leading D.C. to revise its designs and delay its timeline.

What's next: D.C. is adding speed enforcement cameras to 29 locations this month.

  • The cameras will be placed in High Injury Network spots — aka traffic areas where DDOT has identified speeding to be a safety problem — across Northwest, Northeast, and Southeast.
  • By March, 140 new devices are planned, the Washington Post recently reported.

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