What began in the fuel crisis of the 1970s — when OPEC turned off the spigot for oil to the United States — will come to an end in February for many District drivers.
The ability to take a right turn when faced with a red traffic light will disappear at about 100 D.C. lights where it previously had been permitted.
It’s all in keeping with Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s concept of Vision Zero, an international effort intended to eliminate traffic fatalities and injuries. Bowser (D) said allowing right turns at red lights contributes to “entirely preventable” crashes that involve bicyclists and pedestrians.
The District experienced a rash of fatal collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists during the summer and fall, leading Bowser to say in October, “We want to look at everything that the government can control — how we invest in improving intersections, how we help educate our public and how we enforce the rules of the road.”
D.C. Department of Transportation Director Jeff Marootian said in a statement Dec. 21 that the intersections where “No right turn on red” signs will be installed were carefully selected.
“These locations were selected using data and recognized best practices to yield the greatest safety improvements,” Marootian said.
He said Bowser directed his agency to look for locations to ban right turns on red and implement other safety improvements. All signs are expected to be installed by the end of July, he said.
Marootian provided a list of intersections at which red-light right turns will be prohibited.
The concept of allowing right turns when the traffic signal indicated cars should be stopped was initiated almost 50 years ago and is commonplace in much of the United States. There was a belief that if there was no cross traffic at an intersection, vehicles should be allowed to proceed with caution rather than sit idling, burning gasoline at a time that it was in short supply.
The overall number of U.S. pedestrian deaths in 2016 reached 5,987, the highest number since 1990, and the 840 bicycle fatalities were the most since 1991.
In the District, from 2008 to 2017, 101 pedestrians died after being struck by cars, and 10 cyclists.
Among the most recent pedestrian deaths, a woman from Alaska and her mother from Washington state were struck and killed in a crosswalk in Northwest Washington at 9:40 p.m. Dec. 19.
The driver of a tour bus — Gerard Derrick James, 45, of Baltimore — has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of Monica Adams Carlson, 61, and her mother, Cora Louise Adams, 85, who were struck as they crossed Pennsylvania Avenue at Seventh Street NW.
Carlson and Adams had visited the White House hours before they were struck and had also visited Arlington National Cemetery.
Peter Hermann contributed to this report.