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Get Smart: Region Launches Safety Campaign

The people who run the Street Smart campaign for pedestrian safety always pick a good location to launch these education and safety campaigns. This morning, it was an education to stand near the press conference and watch pedestrian, auto and bike traffic move through the intersection of 14th and U streets NW in Washington.

At first, all looks well. Both streets are flat and have good sight lines for all travelers. There are plenty of signs: "Don't Block the Box," "No Turn on Red," "Pedestrians Must Wait For Walk Signal." All the crossing signals have pedestrian countdowns. And there's an enforcement camera to intimidate red-light runners. What could go wrong?

It's actually one of the most problematic intersections in the District, bringing together many thousands of travelers forced to make many decisions -- not necessary the right ones -- as they try go get through it.

It doesn't take too long to see drivers, walkers and bikers crossing when and where they shouldn't. One of the biggest problems, said George Branyan, the D.C. pedestrian program coordinator, is turning traffic, especially left-turning traffic

Some drivers just jump the light to turn left. Others are more focused on the oncoming traffic then on the pedestrians in the crosswalk, who have the right of way. Branyan is pleased that the District now has a $250 fine and three points on a driver's license for failure to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.

"Too many drivers succumb to frustration by taking chances on our roads," D.C. Assistant Police Chief Patrick Burke said during the press conference. He and several other speakers today talked about the need to "change behavior" among all types of travelers.

During the Street Smart effort from now till April 19, you'll see a wave of safety educational ads, backed by more intensive enforcement of bike and pedestrian safety rules. "Street Smart forces people to take responsibility for their actions," said Gabe Klein, acting director of the District Department of Transportation. And Klein did mean everybody, noting that he was almost knocked down by a cyclist this morning while he was jogging.

By Robert Thomson  |  March 25, 2009; 1:23 PM ET
Categories:  Safety  
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Good plan. As a DC pedestrian, I think drivers have become more careless over the last few years.

Posted by: BaracksTeleprompter | March 25, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Traffic enforcement certainly needs to focus on driver behavior, but pedestrians too are often at fault, esp. those who are lost in a cell phone conversation or texting as they wander into traffic, totally oblivious to their surroundings.

Posted by: eomcmars | March 25, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

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