On Christmas Eve, 2014, one family suffered a horrific tragedy when darkness, rain and traffic coalesced into an accident wherein a 3-year old boy was struck by a car. The boy was dragged 25 feet underneath the vehicle before the driver managed to stop. Thanks to a few quick-thinking bystanders, the boy was freed from beneath the car, but suffered severe injuries and was taken to the hospital in critical condition.
This regrettable incident is part of the larger problem of pedestrian safety in the United States and especially in Washington, D.C. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 4,743 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2012, and another 76,000 were injured. That same year, over one in five children between the ages of 5 and 15 was killed in traffic incidents as pedestrians.
D.C. accounts for disproportionately high number of pedestrian accidents. Between 2003 and 2010, the rate of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents was higher than all but two U.S. states. In 2014, 52 people were killed as pedestrians in the D.C. metro-area, averaging one death per week.
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has a new program that seeks to reduce this high rate of pedestrian injuries and death among schoolchildren.
The CDC conducted research in 2008 asking parents why their children do not walk to school. Distance was the first and most popular reason, but for students in close proximity to schools, the number one reason was traffic danger. DDOT hoped to assuage fears and protect children when it took on the District’s School Crossing Guard Program. Originally the domain of the Metropolitan Police Department, the program was transferred to the DDOT to utilize its transportation safety expertise.
The School Crossing Guard Program employs people to monitor high-traffic areas and facilitate safe street crossings for students. Their bright clothing and traffic direction help create a safe, steady exchange of vehicles and pedestrians through these hazardous crossings. The program also allows D.C. residents with the help of school principals and assistant-principals to petition DDOT for crossing guards at intersections identified as busy by community members. Locations where crossing guards can be requested must be within a quarter-mile of a public or charter school and must receive foot traffic of at least 20 students within the period of an hour.
The combined efforts of the DDOT and informed citizens have made great progress in treating D.C.’s serious pedestrian accident problem, but there is more work to be done.
As personal injury attorneys in D.C., we encourage parents and other residents to take action to note crosswalks in their area that are dangerous and speak to their school principals. DDOT’s instructions on how to petition the district for additional crossing guards in your area.