DC traffic deaths reaches high, somber mark not seen in more than 15 years

D.C. traffic deaths have reached a high and somber mark, one not seen in more than 15 years.

First reported by Axios, 45 people have died in traffic crashes — from pedestrians, drivers and passengers to motorcyclists, bicyclists and scooter riders — according to the most recent numbers by Vision Zero. Those numbers are the highest since 2007 when there were 54 traffic fatalities, according to D.C. police.

Vision Zero is an initiative by Mayor Muriel Bowser that launched in 2015, which aims to improve safety and decrease traffic fatalities on District streets. The year the program launched, there were 26 traffic fatalities. The original goal hoped to have zero traffic deaths by 2024. There’s still one month left in the year.

Axios reported that there’s been a jump in driver and passenger deaths since 2022. By this time last year, five drivers and three passengers died in crashes. So far this year, it’s more than double that number for each — 11 drivers and seven passengers.

Two bicycle riders and two scooter riders have also died, but pedestrian deaths make up the highest chunk of this year’s numbers, as 17 have died so far this year.

The higher numbers are despite lower speed limits in places around the city, Axios said, including along highly traveled corridors, such as Connecticut Avenue in Northwest and New York Avenue in Northeast.

Overall reported traffic injuries in D.C. during the years of the pandemic decreased sharply by about 30% overall, a Vision Zero analysis found. And injuries among pedestrians and cyclists decreased even more — by 44% (pedestrians) and 51% (cyclists).

But where injuries declined during the pandemic, fatalities increased, not just in D.C. but across the country. In the District, fatalities increased from 27 in 2019, to 37 in 2020, and 40 in 2021. Vision Zero attributes this pattern to overall increased speeds on the roadway.

WTOP’s Abigail Constantino contributed to this report. 

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