The District is moving to reduce speed limits on some city streets as part of its effort to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries.
A proposal by the D.C. Department of Transportation would lower the default 25 mph speed limit to 20 mph on some neighborhood streets and create 15 mph zones 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on roadways around schools, parks, senior and youth centers.
The “neighborhood slow zones” are part of the city’s “Vision Zero” plan that aims to end traffic-related deaths by 2024. The plan also includes tougher penalties for traffic infractions, and targets speeding, which officials say is the a leading factor in traffic deaths.
The city registered 28 traffic fatalities last year, up from 26 in 2015. And so far this year, at least five traffic deaths have been reported, including a Jan. 7 crash on New York Avenue that killed three people in a vehicle; police said speed was a factor. This week, a 65-year-old woman who was walking in a crosswalk was struck and killed by a driver who police said was intoxicated and speeding.
Under the DDOT proposal, drivers would need to pay attention to their speed in certain areas the city designated as “neighborhood slow zones,” where the maximum speed limit would be 20 miles per hour. The 15 mph zones will be established around schools and other facilities serving youth, as well as near playgrounds, recreational facilities, pools, athletic fields, or senior centers. The 15 mph speed limit would apply between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., unless there are signs indicating otherwise.
The city had originally proposed making the zones 24/7. But after getting feedback, including criticism from drivers and advocates about the proposed measures, DDOT spent a year revising the plan.
Other changes included in the revised plan scale back some fine increases. Drivers caught traveling more than 25 mph over the posted limit could face fines of up to $500 — instead of the originally proposed $,1000. Rolling through a right-turn-on-red will cost you $100, compared to the current $50; and the fine for overtaking another vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk or intersection to give pedestrians the right of way will double to $500.
City officials and advocates say making roads safer for all users should be a priority, especially as commuting patterns change with more people choosing to walk or bike to work. Reducing speed limits will ultimately contribute to the zero deaths goal, they say. The Vision Zero strategy also makes use of data, education, enforcement, and engineering to reach that goal.
DDOT’s plan also requires side guards be installed on all large commercial vehicles in the District; that drivers clear damaged, but operational vehicles from travel lanes after a crash; and that motorists move over or slow down when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped on the side of the road. Drivers also will face fines if they fail to yield to buses merging into traffic.
If approved, the new speed limits and traffic rules could go into effect as early as this spring.
Read the proposed rules here.
DDOT take feedback on the proposed rules through March 6. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent to Alice Kelly, manager, Policy and Legislative Affairs Division, Office of the director, District Department of Transportation, 55 M Street, SE, Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20003.