Comment period extended on D.C.’s ‘Vision Zero’ traffic plan

WASHINGTON — Hashing out the details of the District’s “Vision Zero” plan to make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists may take longer than expected.

“To allow for proper public comment, we will be extending the comment period through the end of January,” said D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) Director Leif A. Dormsjo while testifying before the D.C. Council’s Transportation Committee on Friday.

Committee Chair Mary Cheh opened the hearing expressing dismay that the previous comment period over the winter holidays allowed concerned parties only 30 days to review, discuss and analyze the proposal.

“I’m also surprised that the specifics of DDOT’s plan to enhance traffic penalties and create a number of new traffic offenses were not raised at this committee’s December 8th hearing on the mayor’s ‘Vision Zero’ bill,” Cheh said.

The hearing Friday allowed public comment and discussion of “Vision Zero” proposals that would increase fines for a dozen traffic violations and create eight new ticketing offenses in the District.

New traffic offenses include:

  • $100 for speeding near a school, senior or recreation center, pool, athletic field or playground.
  • $500 for failing to slow down while passing a parked emergency vehicle.
  • $500 for failing to yield to a transit bus (i.e. allowing it to merge in front of your car and into traffic).

Some of the proposed increases in fines and penalties include:

  • Raise fine for hitting a cyclist from $50 to $500.
  • Raise fine for swinging open a parked car door into a cyclist’s path from $25 to $100.
  • Raise fine for driving over a median strip, an island or safety zone from $100 to $500.
  • Raise fine for failure to yield right-of-way to a vehicle or pedestrian from $50 to $200.
  • Raise fine for speeding more than 25 miles an hour over the posted limit from $300 to $1,000.

“Three hundred dollars for speeding 30 miles per hour over the limit, I think it’s silly. I’ll go further, I think it’s stupid,” said D.C. Councilman Charles Allen at the hearing in support of raising fines and penalties for excessive speeding.

“I do believe that improved safety is the key consideration in the ‘Vision Zero’ plan,” Allen said.

The proposal to create a $1,000 speeding ticket for going more than 25 miles an hour over the limit has garnered public outrage, and Mayor Muriel Bowser has said she doesn’t support a fine that high.

“These rules may be, and most likely will be, amended before implementation,” Dormsjo said.

During his testimony, Dormsjo stressed that higher fines are just part of a larger effort.

“The [Vision Zero] plan outlines over 60 strategies to eliminate traffic fatalities,” Dormsjo said.

Those strategies include data collection and analysis, street engineering changes and education campaigns.

Click here to make an online comment on the proposed changes.

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