A crackdown on speeders, jaywalkers and motorists who run red lights will begin next month in the District and is expected to double -- to as many as 800 a day -- the number of traffic tickets issued by D.C. police.
Prompted by a dramatic rise in traffic fatalities, especially among pedestrians, and what police concede has been a general laxity of enforcement in areas other than alcohol-related infractions, the program will put radar-equipped units into high-violation areas in each of the city's seven police districts on a daily basis.
In a separate development yesterday, the city signed a contract with McLean-based Dynalectron Corp., for a $25 million computer-controlled traffic signal system.
In recent years, the system itself has become a major traffic control problem, especially when cold temperatures and weather-related problems have thrown signals out of whack throughout the city. Officials have speculated that traffic light malfunctions may be a factor in people running the lights.
"Drugs and crime are our first priorities," Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. said yesterday in explaining his department's beefed-up enforcement plans, "but with fatalities climbing, we can't neglect traffic."
There were 65 traffic fatalities in the District in 1984, 33 of them pedestrians. There have been seven traffic deaths so far this year, including three pedestrians, compared with five deaths in the same period last year, including two pedestrians.
Turner said $100,000 of federal National Highway Safety Administration grant funds will finance a special roving, radar-equipped traffic enforcement unit that will operate four hours a day on Mondays through Thursdays.
"The public has a responsibility to comply with traffic regulations," said Capt. David Baker, head of the traffic division. "This will bring up the attention level."
The District's emphasis on ticketing motorists and pedestrians is the first in what many area officials hope will be a growing campaign. The Council of Governments today is to consider a resolution calling for a crackdown on drivers who run red lights along with higher fines for those violations.
Albert Eisenberg, a Arlington County Board member who heads COG's public safety policy committee, said the growing tendency for motorists to run through yellow and red lights seems to be linked to the "stressful urban environment."
"As the streets become more crowded, and it takes more time for people to get from one place to another, there is a tendency for people to speed up to get through a light so they won't have to spend their time waiting," Eisenberg said.
"Some people have said the red-light violations are an outgrowth of a generally more permissive society. We can't let people think these violations are unimportant, that the police are 'letting them get away with them,' " he said.
Baker said that the vigorous enforcement of speeding, jaywalking and traffic signal laws will have no effect on the city's drunk driving enforcement.
D.C. police hope to increase by 500 the number of drunk driving arrests this year, and will use its special alcohol enforcement team on Sundays, in addition to Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Baker said.
There were 5,645 drunk-driving arrests in the District last year, 181 more than 1983.
Baker said said that traffic analysts will choose five to eight high-violation areas in each of the police districts for officers to patrol, based on accident reports and the locations of pedestrian and speed-related fatalities, and that these target will change monthly.
According to Officer Fred Thompson of the traffic analysis unit, the red-light and pedestrian violations are spread throughout the city, while speeding violations occur most often through rush-hours on the Southeast/Southwest Freeway, Interstate 295, outbound New York Avenue NE and parts of Michigan Avenue NE.
Most pedestrian violations occur between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and involve children in the city's residential areas and older residents and tourists in the downtown areas.
Thompson said red-light violations occur throughout the 24 hours, and involve persons who speed straight through an intersection.
"There is no connection with changes in right-turn-on-red laws and running red lights," he said.
However, the District's antiquated system of traffic lights is blamed for some people running lights.
The current system of about 1,300 traffic lights, installed in the 1950s, relies on radio messages and electrochemical switches to coordinate the lights -- seven different models, some of which are no longer manufactured.
The new system will use lights that will include microprocessors, which will allow officials to program the lights to burn red, amber or green based on the traffic flow at that location at a given time.
The new signals also will permit for changes in those instructions when special traffic problems arise.
Installation of the new system is expected to begin within two months, and will require five years to complete.