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Area traffic crashes and fatalities a ‘serious public health issue’

Crews in Arlington County responded to a crash in the HOV lanes of Interstate 395 in Shirlington, Virginia, Monday morning that involved several cars, including two taxis. (Courtesy Arlington County Fire Department)

WASHINGTON — Highway safety in the D.C. area is a “public health issue,” according to a local leader frustrated by steady year-over-year increases in traffic crashes, and a recent 45.76 percent jump in drunken driving fatalities.

“There’s nothing really to cheer about with respect to highway safety in this region,” former chair of the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, David Snyder said.

Snyder notes the number of yearly crashes has risen from 52,318 in 2010 to 88,276 in 2017, “as result of ignoring the laws, driving too fast for conditions, being distracted, failure to wear seat belts — and as we’ve heard from these reports, we really haven’t won the war against driving under the influence either.”

Snyder talked about this at last week’s Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Board meeting where local leaders were being briefed on the “How Safe Are Our Roads” report, prepared for the Washington Regional Alcohol Program.

“This is a serious public health issue, and the region needs to focus on this more than we have done so far,” Snyder said. “And it’s not just government — it’s each and every person out there on the roads.”

Meanwhile, elected leaders on the state level are trying to make roads safer.

Maryland lawmakers are now considering legislation to make repeat drunk driving a felony punishable up to ten years. This is the third year in a row Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has proposed the Repeat Drunk Driving Offenders Act.

Virginia is on track to ban the use of hand-held mobile devices while driving. Next week, lawmakers are expected to send legislation to Gov. Ralph Northam for his signature. The hand-held cellphone ban in Virginia would take effect in January of 2020.

 

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