THOMAS HOLLOWELL, 64, was riding his bicycle on Constitution Avenue NW when a driver ran a red light, hitting and killing him. Carol Joan Tomason, 70, was in a marked crosswalk when she was struck and killed by the driver of a pickup truck. Monica Adams Carlson, 61, and her mother, Cora Louise Adams, 85, were vacationing in the District from Alaska when they were hit and killed by the driver of a tour bus allegedly on a cellphone as he made a left turn onto Pennsylvania Avenue NW. They were among the 34 people killed in traffic accidents in the city in 2018, a particularly deadly year that underscored just how far short the city has fallen in its bid to make its streets safe and better protect pedestrians and bicyclists.
The number of 2018 traffic deaths represents more than a 13 percent increase over 2017 and is also up from the 28 fatalities in 2016 and the 26 fatalities in 2015. The District is not alone in seeing increases (Fairfax County, for example, also saw an uptick this year), but the numbers are troubling given Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s much-ballyhooed launch almost four years ago of a Vision Zero initiative to eliminate traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries. Modeled after a pioneering Swedish program begun in 1997, the initiative’s goal is to end traffic deaths by 2024 through the use of traffic-calming strategies such as redesigned streets, revamped intersections and lowered speed limits. New York City launched Vision Zero in 2014 and is on course to set a 100-year low in traffic fatalities in 2018, the fifth year in a row that traffic deaths have fallen.
That the District failed to make similar reductions, and, indeed, backslid even further, is due to what critics say has been a lack of resources, energy and urgency by the Bowser administration. Such criticism — along with the high-profile deaths of Hollowell, Tomason and others — caused Ms. Bowser in October to revamp the city’s approach. Tougher penalties for traffic infractions will take effect Tuesday, and the city’s transportation department plans to install “No Turn on Red Light” signs at 100 intersections, create hardened left turns that add rubber curbs to prevent drivers from cutting off a corner and implement other traffic-calming strategies.
It’s good that the administration finally recognized the need for bolder action. Whether the changes go far enough — some advocates are urging even more dramatic changes — remains unclear, and it’s important the city carefully monitor their effectiveness. It’s also important that those who walk, bike and drive in the city recognize that they, too, have a responsibility to look out for their own and others’ safety.