|I want more of these in DC! SO MANY MORE!|
GIVE THEM TO ME NOW! Photo Source.
Although I often don't have many kind things to say about Vincent Gray, DC's mayor, there's one thing that he and I agree on - DC would be a much better place if it had many, many more speed cameras, red light cameras, and other automated traffic enforcement. As a DC resident, I wholeheartedly agree.
Gray's proposals come as a part of a plan to balance DC's budget, as reported by WAMU:
Although I've always been a big proponent of walking and public transit as the most sensible, cheapest, healthiest, and most environmentally friendly means of personal transportation in cities, living in downtown DC has made me into a near-vigilante when it comes to asserting and defending my rights as a pedestrian - because people in the DC metro area suck at driving. And that's not just me saying that - multiple insurance companies have concluded that DC metro drivers are the worst drivers in the United States.
Everyone in the DC metro area has their opinion as to which state (or in DC's case, non-state) has the worst drivers in the region. Without much surprise, people generally think that people from their same state are the best drivers in the region - and I'm no exception. I'm speaking primarily as a pedestrian, however, as I practically never drive in DC - and I agree with the comments at DCist:
- Maryland drivers are the worst - they blast down my residential road at 45+ miles per hour, are totally oblivious to pedestrians, and generally have no regard for anyone on the road but themselves. Most of the times my wife or I have near-misses with cars (when we're trying to cross a road legally in a crosswalk), the offending car is from Maryland.
- Virginia drivers are better than Maryland drivers, but not by much. They aren't such extreme speed freaks as Maryland drivers, and they seem to be slightly more aware of pedestrians, but they're still pretty bad.
- DC drivers certainly have their flaws, but at least they are somewhat prone to looking for pedestrians trying to legally cross the street before blasting through an intersection, are less likely to treat residential streets as highway bypasses, etc.
There have been a couple of recent events, however, that prompted me to write this blog post, in conjunction with Gray's budget announcement:
- Last week, a driver (from Maryland) blatantly ran a red light near my apartment, almost hitting my wife, who had had a walk signal for a couple seconds already when the driver blew through the intersection at 40+ mph.
- This past weekend, my wife and I were crossing the street in a crosswalk (this particular crosswalk has no light). Many of you DC metro drivers are not aware, it seems, that you must stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk if they are in the crosswalk, even if there's no light. My wife and I were halfway through the crosswalk when a driver (from Virginia) gunned his engine to make it through the intersection before we got to his side of the road. I gave the driver a near-universal sign of displeasure at his actions. We kept walking, but the driver stopped his car in the middle of the road, jumped out, and started yelling at us. We kept walking and tried to explain (via yelling, a rather inefficient communication method) that he is required by law to stop in crosswalks for pedestrians, even if there's no light at the crosswalk.
Some people have cynically argued that the traffic cameras are only about money. Aside from being laughably untrue - so what if it is about money? As a DC resident, I have no problem with soaking Maryland and Virginia drivers through traffic cameras. They endanger our pedestrians and drive on our streets at no cost - well, I, for one, am happy to have their fines contribute to the upkeep of the DC roads they so often drive on.
So, that's what it boils down to - as Greater Greater Washington says: "speed kills, and traffic cameras save lives." As a DC resident, I hope Mayor Gray gets his way and that every street (and therefore pedestrian) in DC is protected by a traffic camera.
Not incidentally, you can read much more on how to improve pedestrian safety in the DC metro area over at Greater Greater Washington.