An effort to increase road safety for D.C.’s young bike users and pedestrians includes coming up with a way for students to document “near misses,” those times they’ve had to take evasive action to avoid a collision.
Jeremiah Lowery, advocacy director with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, said the plan is to have a pilot website up in April that can be used by students in Wards 7 and 8. Once feedback from the initial rollout is analyzed, it could be expanded for use citywide.
“Youth near-misses crash data is really hard to come by,” Lowery said, adding that the thought is that a website can help illustrate where safety is an issue. “So for right now, the tool will be just for students,” from grade school through high school, he said.
The tracker is being developed in cooperation with Howard University and is supported by a $100,000 grant from the National Safety Council. Lowery said WABA is also working with the Safe Routes Partnership which works to improve safety for students walking and biking to school.
Lowery said the key to success for the project is to get the word out that it’s available.
As an example, Lowery said suppose that as many as 100 people report near misses at a given intersection: “Do you need 101? Hopefully that will give some emphasis to the Department of Transportation and our elected officials to at least evaluate it and see, is it dangerous?”
Lowery said after fatalities, an intersection or street may garner attention, “but it shouldn’t come to that point. There’s hundreds of near misses behind every death.”
D.C.’s Vision Zero plan is focused on eliminating road deaths, and according to statistics on its website, an average of 32 people a year have died on D.C. roads between 2015 and 2021. The Metropolitan Police Department’s website on traffic fatalities report that 34 people have been killed this year. That compares to 40 at the same time last year.
D.C. Council member Charles Allen, who will be chairing the Committee on Transportation and Environment in the upcoming council period, said in a statement to WTOP, that he looks forward to work with WABA and other advocates to ensure “safe streets for all users.”
“I’m especially grateful to Howard and WABA for focusing this effort on roads east of the Anacostia River, where a disproportionate number of traffic deaths occur,” Allen said.