Study says nearly 1/3 of crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists go unreported in DC

You wouldn’t necessarily expect every single car accident to get a police report after the fact, even if an ambulance is sent out to respond to the scene as a precaution. But in D.C., a new report is examining just how many crashes called in to 911 dispatchers never got a subsequent police report.

The D.C. Policy Center looked at calls to 911 over a six week period last spring, and then looked for a corresponding accident report after the fact. During that time period, about 10% of all vehicle-only collisions never got a paper trail, while 30% of all collisions involving pedestrians, cyclists and scooter riders weren’t documented in a crash report.

“Among the pedestrian and cyclist community, I think they’ve known for a long time that the public crash reports weren’t capturing all the crashes,” said Emilia Calma, the deputy director of research and policy at the D.C. Policy Center.

“It’s in MPD (Metropolitan Police Department) policy that they won’t write reports if people don’t want to make statements and there’s a whole bunch of reasons why people might not want to do that,” she added.

But if the District Department of Transportation relies on crash reports to determine if city streets have adequate safety measures in place, or if more needs to be done, then Calma said the city isn’t working with all the data it needs.

“I hope that what comes out of this is DDOT can expand the amount of data that they use to make their public transportation decisions here in D.C.,” she said. That means looking at data for calls to 911 or trauma reports from area hospitals.

“They look at specific places in the city and whether or not there’s been a reported crash there. If these pedestrians and bicyclists are underreported by a third, then they don’t have a complete picture of where the crashes are happening in the city,” leading to, she believes, “less safety features than we would ideally want.”

Wards 7 and 8 saw the highest number of collisions called into 911 overall, and along with Ward 2, the highest percentage of unreported crashes. More than half of all crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists happened in Wards 2, 5 and 6.

WTOP has reached out to both MPD and DDOT to offer any comments about this study. Any response will be updated into this story.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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