Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The number of pedestrians killed on D.C. streets has increased in 2005, despite an aggressive ticket-writing campaign this summer that targeted jaywalkers, bicyclists and motorists, D.C. officials said.

The city has issued about 1,600 tickets for pedestrian traffic violations so far this year, but the number of pedestrian deaths also increased — from 10 in 2004 to 15 this year.

About 90 percent of the tickets issued this year were part of an initiative called Street Smart, which was implemented in 2002 and focuses on bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians.

Jim Sebastian, coordinator of the District Department of Transportation’s bicycle program, said one explanation that the number of pedestrian accidents have not decreased is that education programs take time to yield results. City officials could not provide the number of tickets issued in 2004.

George Branyan, coordinator of the Transportation Department’s pedestrian program, said many accidents in which pedestrians were found responsible involved their crossing streets in the middle of a block.

However, he said assigning such blame is misleading because other factors, such as poor lighting and limited crosswalks, also could have contributed to the accidents.

According to the Metropolitan Police Department, eight of the 15 pedestrians killed this year were at fault.

Two of the 10 most-dangerous intersections for pedestrians were in predominately Hispanic neighborhoods.

Mr. Branyan said the Street Smart program includes such educational components as posters and pamphlets, including Spanish-language versions.

“Hispanic pedestrians are overrepresented based on population,” he said. “Recent immigrant groups tend to be very transit dependent.”

Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said the increased number of pedestrian deaths shows that ticket writing is not enough.

“It takes more than enforcement to really make streets safe,” he said. “Education about driving, biking and pedestrian safety is necessary, along with a review of locations with high numbers of accidents to see if engineering solutions will make roads safer.”

City transportation department statistics show Alabama Avenue and Stanton Road in Southeast had nine pedestrian accidents from 2002 to 2004, making it the most dangerous intersection in the city for pedestrians.

However, only 117 of the 1,944 pedestrian accidents during that period occurred in the District’s 20 most-dangerous intersections.

“The occurrence of pedestrian crashes are extremely dispersed throughout the city,” Mr. Branyan said.

In 2004, 723 pedestrians were injured in traffic accidents in the District, the highest total in the past five years, according to police. The District had an annual average of 621 accidents involving pedestrians from 2000 to 2003. Police attribute the increase to a recent surge in pedestrian traffic.

Montgomery County police reported 14 pedestrian fatalities in 2004, one more than in 2003. Fairfax County police reported 17 such fatalities in 2004, compared with 10 in 2003.

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