There has been a significant increase in pedestrian fatalities in D.C. in recent months, particularly pedestrians getting killed in traffic crashes.
The latest accident occurred on May 2nd around 2:30 a.m., when a car struck and killed a pedestrian at the intersection of N. Capitol Street and Florida Avenue, Northwest. Unfortunately, this is not a rare occurrence, as D.C. traffic deaths are at a 14-year high.
The 40 pedestrian deaths in D.C. in 2021 were the most since 2007. Additionally, lower-income neighborhoods in the District have recorded eight times more traffic fatalities in recent years than the city’s wealthier areas.
In the United States as a whole, the pedestrian fatality rate has increased as well, with 3,441 pedestrians killed in the first half of 2021, which was an increase of 17% from the first half of 2020.
Why Have Pedestrian Accidents Risen?
Reasons why pedestrian accidents have risen are unclear. However, safety experts believe multiple factors are in play, including:
- Streets are not pedestrian-friendly
- Urban growth has led to increased pedestrians
- Driver over stipulated speed limit
- Distracted pedestrians and drivers
- Impaired driving
- Aggressive driving
- Major roads don’t have clear sidewalks or are missing sidewalks
To try and reduce instances of pedestrian accidents and boost road safety, Officials from the City and the Department of Transportation created the Vision Zero Program.
With the program, the city intends to educate Washington D.C residents about increased pedestrian-motor vehicle crashes, strict traffic enforcement of current street laws, and changes to street designs. Also, the city reduced speed limits in areas with more pedestrians and increased fines for violations in these regions.
Traffic Rules and Regulations for Pedestrians and Drivers in DC
It is important to note the official traffic rules that govern how to behave on the road for both drivers and pedestrians. The Code of the District of Columbia states that:
- A driver shall stop and allow a pedestrian to cross the roadway within any unmarked or marked crosswalk at an intersection.
- A pedestrian who has begun crossing on the “WALK” signal should be given the right-of-way by the driver of any vehicle, even if there is a green light to drive.
- It’s the pedestrian’s duty to ensure they don’t leave the safety platform, curb, or safety zone suddenly to walk when not given the “WALK” signal at intersections.
- A pedestrian cannot walk out into the crosswalk in an intersection if the vehicle is in such close proximity that the driver cannot yield.
Being aware and attentive at busy intersections is important for the safety of both the driver and the pedestrian.
Penalties for Traffic Safety Violations in DC
For drivers, failure to stop for a pedestrian can have consequences on both one’s license and on one’s life. Below is a list of violations and penalties they carry:
- Failure to stop and give the right-of-way to a pedestrian who has begun crossing on the “WALK” signal can have a penalty of $75 and 3 points against one’s license.
- Failure to stop in any marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection can have a penalty of $250 and 3 points.
- Overtaking a vehicle from behind that has stopped at a marked or unmarked crossroad to allow pedestrians to cross carries a $250 fine and 3 points.
- Not giving a pedestrian right of way on a sidewalk, parking lot, or alley also carries a $250 fine and 3 points.
- Colliding with a pedestrian while committing any of these offenses can cost $500 and 6 points against one’s license. For this violation, the driver might face criminal charges and receive a double fine.
If a driver accumulates 8 to 11 points, D.C. may suspend driving privileges up to 90 days, while 12 or more points can result in a revocation of driving privileges.
This is in addition to any criminal charges that may result from striking a pedestrian, such as Leaving After Colliding, which can result in jail up to 180 days for first time offenders and up to 1 year for second time offenders.
A charge of vehicular manslaughter is also possible if the pedestrian is killed and the driver was acting in a reckless, careless, or negligent manner that caused the death of another.
Intent is not necessary to charge a driver with vehicular manslaughter, and the maximum sentence for a conviction is five years in prison.
This issue of pedestrian-related fatalities in D.C. is growing and both drivers and pedestrians must be aware at all times to prevent injury or loss of life. The consequences can be severe for negligent drivers, and it is always safer to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks even if they are crossing at the wrong time.
Get Assistance From an Experienced Pedestrian Accident Attorney in Washington DC Today
It is important to have an experienced attorney explain the potential outcome of your case if charged in a car accident. For a consultation, contact our car accident attorneys in D.C. and Maryland.