“We are seeing the growing use of people on cellphones and the growing occurrence of distracted drivers,” said Kenneth M. Trombly, whose firm commissioned the map. “And, obviously, that’s a serious problem.”
The interactive map — which drew from data freely available from the D.C. government — is designed to show the severity and frequency of crashes with pedestrians in the nation’s capital from 2009 to 2015.
The most concentrated number of collisions with pedestrians occurred in the city’s Downtown grid, followed by Dupont Circle and Columbia Heights. Many also occurred near Metro stations. The most dangerous intersection was at Minnesota Avenue NE and Benning Road, where there were 10 crashes with 14 injuries, five of which were serious.
Trombly, who is a partner at Trombly & Singer, said that in the hundreds of cases the firm sifts through each year, it sees more and more evidence that pedestrian fatalities are connected to distraction — both by people walking and texting or motorists who are talking or texting behind the wheel.
His experience also suggests why it’s been hard to obtain definitive evidence of the effect of smartphones on traffic crashes and fatalities. For one thing, people lie, even when they’re called to testify under oath in a deposition as part of a lawsuit.
“In more and more cases, for example, we have to subpoena cellphone records of the driver,” Trombly said. “And we’ll find out that the person who, in his deposition, said he wasn’t on the phone turns out, yes, according to his records, he was on the phone or texting.”
The map — which was first featured in the Washingtonian this month — is the work of 1 Point 21 Interactive, a San Diego-based firm that analyzed more than 152,000 crash records and 5,291 pedestrian collisions from 2009 to 2015. The relative size and intensity of the map’s notations were based on a “Danger Index” that assigned one point for every crash, two points for a crash with minor injuries, five for crashes with a major injury and 10 for a fatal crash.
Trombly, who works on K Street near some intersections where many crashes occur, said he’s seen more than his share of people either driving while texting or pedestrians stepping into the street with their faces buried in their phones. He said he hopes the graphic will spark further discussion about what to do to improve safety not only at risky intersections but also anywhere people and vehicles cross paths.
“I think that knowledge is power,” Trombly said. And “I think that it’s useful to both pedestrians and drivers if for no reason other than to certainly be mindful of each other and be more careful in certain parts of the city. And I think it also helps further the conversation about public safety. … So I think that helps further the kind of conversation.”