Drivers who exceed city speed limits by more than 25 miles per hour on city streets will face $500 fines — $400 if traveling on a highway — up from $300. Rolling through a right-turn-on-red will cost $100 instead of $50, and drivers who overtake a vehicle stopped at a crosswalk for a pedestrian risk a $500 ticket instead of $250 and three points on their license.
The harsher penalties are part of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s “Vision Zero” strategy to reduce injuries and eliminate traffic-related deaths by 2024.
The new rules “carry strong but fair penalties and convey the District’s commitment to ending traffic fatalities,” said Jeff Marootian, director of the District Department of Transportation.
Several of the increases relate to drivers interacting with pedestrians and bicyclists. Failing to yield to a pedestrian in the roadway will incur a $150 fine, up from $75; parking in a bike lane will cost $150, up from $65; and swinging open a parked car’s door into the path of a cyclist or pedestrian will incur a $50 fine instead of $25.
Fines for not making a full stop before turning and ignoring “No Turn on Red” signs will incur a $100 fine.
Among the new fines: Speeding near a recreation or senior center and failing to yield to a bus reentering traffic will both mean a $100 ticket.
Advocacy groups for pedestrians and bicyclists have been lobbying for higher fines for drivers and lower speed limits as a way to tackle the growing number of traffic collisions that result in fatalities and injuries. District transportation officials have said the higher penalties are intended to deter dangerous behaviors, including speeding, which they say is a factor in many of the traffic fatalities in the city. But critics cite a lack of data supporting that higher fines deter people from speeding or engaging in other dangerous driving habits and have called the new fines “punitive” and “draconian.”
"The higher fine regime is a big charade in the name of traffic safety, and tragically it would not modify bad driving behavior or make our roadways safer, or bring us any closer to achieving zero traffic deaths,” said AAA Mid-Atlantic’s John B. Townsend II.
The new rules answer to complaints from motorists that cyclists and pedestrians should also face consequences for traffic infractions.
Among the new penalties for cyclists: a $150 fine for a cyclist who collides with a pedestrian crossing the roadway with the right of way and a $100 fine for a cyclist who collides with a pedestrian while riding on a sidewalk.
Pedestrians who walk suddenly into the path of a vehicle, without the right of way, and colliding with a vehicle will face a $100 fine.
The new regulations also require side underride guards for large commercial vehicles registered in the District within two years and designate certain streets near and around senior centers, recreation facilities and other neighborhood zones as 15 mph zones from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Drivers in those areas should drive at 15 mph unless road signs indicate otherwise.
Bowser (D) sent the package of new regulations — the result of nearly three years of discussions and public comment — to the council in September for approval before the end of the year. The council did not take action on the proposal and the new rules were approved by default and set to go into effect this month.
“Traffic engineering, education and infrastructure improvements are important, but we must also have the ability to properly deter anyone who is endangering lives on our roadways," said Marootian, the District Transportation Department director.
A full list of infractions can be found here.