In order to spotlight pedestrian safety in the District, The Metropolitan Police Department announced that, from January 15 to 17, officers will be focusing on the intersection of 17th and K Streets with high visibility enforcement of safety laws.
In conjunction with the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), the initiative is the beginning of a quarterly campaign of specific, high visibility attention to pedestrian safety.
"We had more than 900 pedestrian crashes last year. The average is 653 people hit by a car every year," said the Metropolitan Police Department's Commander James Crane. "But no matter what the numbers are, it's too many." Crane said the number of citations for failure to yield to a pedestrian has gone up 87% in recent years, and citations for blocking bike lanes have quadrupled. With this high visibility enforcement, pedestrians will be a major focus for awareness and education. Police will be stopping pedestrians for infractions, citing some of those stopped, and handing out educational "tip" cards.
But, the responsibility does not only fall on pedestrians. Drivers need to be aware when turning to look for pedestrians in crosswalks and at intersections. Drivers should always stop and give right-of-way to pedestrians crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.
In addition, with the impending Inauguration, when so many out-of-towners are not used to driving and walking around the city, the District has more pedestrian challenges than the suburbs. Data show one of every 10 DC residents walks to work every day. DC is ranked the 7th most walkable city by Walk Score. In fact, last year the number of pedestrians killed tied with 2002 for the lowest number on record since at least 1931. But, despite the decrease in pedestrian deaths, one death is still too many. Pedestrians need to be reminded to cross only in crosswalks, cross with the signals, avoid distractions while crossing roads, and to pay attention to drivers at all times, said Crane. And, drivers need to make sure they are aware of pedestrians at all times.
"We're out there because we want to help save your life. Every death is preventable," Crane said. "This isn't about writing tickets. It's about saving lives."