The District of Columbia saw a disturbing uptick in pedestrian deaths during the first half of 2017, even as the overall death rate nationally seems to have leveled off.
While pedestrian deaths in Virginia and Maryland declined during the period, the District saw pedestrian deaths rise from 3 to 7, the largest percentage increase in the country, according to recent figures from the Governors Highway Safety Association.
Clearly, the District of Columbia saw fewer pedestrian deaths than Maryland and Virginia because it has fewer people. But, as a rate based on population, the District ranked 10th nationally with a rate of 1.01 death for every 100,000 people.
There were 79 pedestrian deaths in the Washington, D.C. region in the first half of 2017, a number that officials said is too high.
“These deaths and injuries are preventable,” said Jeff Marootian, District of Columbia Department of Transportation Director, in a press release. “Research tells us that if we can get people to slow down, we can save lives. Increased enforcement, engineering improvements, and raising public awareness are important steps that we are taking to reduce the number of deaths on our streets.”
Here’s a look at the numbers:
Jan-June 2016: 46
Jan-June 2017: 41
Decline of 10.9%
Jan-June 2016: 50
Jan-June 2017: 45
Decline of 10%
District of Columbia
Jan-June 2016: 3
Jan-June 2017: 7
Increase of 133.3%
Nationally, pedestrian deaths have been on the rise in recent years, with public safety officials placing blame on everything from the rise in smartphone use to the increase in recreational use of marijuana. But data suggests that overall deaths may have declined in 2017. There were 5,987 pedestrian deaths in 2016, and the GHSA said it projects 5,984 in 2017.
All three local jurisdictions have been working to reduce pedestrian deaths, with some individual counties setting a goal of eliminating them entirely. In the District, the Vision Zero plan has called for zero pedestrian deaths by 2024.
Now through May 17, law enforcement agencies in Maryland, the District, and Northern Virginia are boosting enforcement of traffic safety laws, as part of a campaign known as Street Smart.
This year, the D.C. Department of Transportation embarked on a plan to improve 36 intersections with dual turn lanes, which have posed a danger to pedestrians. It also has installed HAWK (High Intensity Activated crossWalk) signals at busy crosswalks that don’t have traffic lights. The signals will activate a red light to stop traffic if a pedestrian is present. If there are no pedestrians, cars may travel through without stopping.
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