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DC Traffic Control Officers Get Teeth

This is a step in the right direction and should be good news to everyone who wants better traffic control on D.C. streets: The Department of Transportation's traffic control officers can now write tickets for parking infractions and minor moving violations such as parking in a prohibited zone, double parking, using a cell phone while driving or blocking a crosswalk.

The traffic control officers are the people in the yellow vests you see at downtown intersections or on M Street and South Capitol Street before and after games at Nationals Park. They direct traffic and help pedestrians get across. But only recently did the District enact legislation and give the officers the training to allow them to stop drivers, bikers and pedestrians and give them tickets.

I admire the traffic control officers. When I cross a downtown intersection, it's often the TCO who's standing between me and an oncoming truck. The officer had no more power than a raised hand.

"Their primary responsibility is to keep traffic moving in a safe and efficient manner," Gabe Klein, the District's transportation director, said in a statement this afternoon. "Distracted driving, blocking of intersections, crosswalks and bike lanes is dangerous for the motorist and the pedestrian and violators will receive tickets."

I enjoy citing violations they now can target, so here's a list of possibilities: Parking in a bus or loading zone, parking in front of a designated entrance, expired tags, standing in a No Standing zone, parking in a No Parking zone, double parking, parking where it's prohibited during rush hour, having an expired inspection sticker or having no front or rear tag, stopping where prohibited.

The one downside I can think of is that anytime a traffic officer stops someone to write a ticket, it takes the officer away from his or her duties at the intersection. I've long thought there should be more of these officers. (There are 67 now.) Maybe a force increase should be the next step.

By Robert Thomson  |  July 29, 2009; 1:22 PM ET
Categories:  Biking , Commuting , Driving , Safety  | Tags: District Department of Transportation, Dr. Gridlock, pedestrians, traffic control officers  
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expired tags, having an expired inspection sticker or having no front or rear tag


TCOs should not be writing tickets for these infractions.

*Traffic* control officers - I don't see how those infractions have anything to do with traffic.

Posted by: blah1233242 | July 29, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

They are safety issues though, just like talking on a cell phone, etc. If someone is driving around with an uninspected vehicle or an unregistered vehicle, they are likely uninsured as well.

Posted by: thetan | July 29, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: Yeah, blah, I agree with your comment that they shouldn't be focusing on that type of violation. If they're going to have to step away from traffic to write a ticket, then at least it should be for something that will benefit traffic right then and there.

What I really hope is that word gets around that these officers have the power to do more than blow whistles. If things go right, the real impact of this new law will be that more people pay attention to directions given by traffic control officers.

Posted by: rtthomson1 | July 29, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Could DDOT perhaps deputize citizens to write tickets for things like parking in bus stops and blocking curb cuts/crosswalks?

My primary mode of transportation is on foot, and while I've noticed that most automobile owners are responsible parkers, there is, in my opinion, an arrogant minority that will park on whatever paved surface happens to be available, ignoring the effect that their actions have on the mobility of others.

If I could write tickets that would help the work of the TCOs, I gladly would!!!

Posted by: DavidMNDC | July 29, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Let me clarify...I don't think the officers should pull anyone over unless the driver is interfering with the traffic flow in the intersection. But once they do, I think the officers should have the right to ticket for any violation they see, be it running a red light or safety violations they observe after pulling over the driver.

Posted by: thetan | July 30, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Just a heads up that there are no less than 10 (!) traffic control officers giving tickets at 14th and F Street, right outside the National Press Building. They seem to be getting drivers for illegal left turns, cell phone use, parking violations, etc. Yesterday, they "booted" a van from Corner Bakery...right in front of the Corner Bakery store. (Couldn't they just have told them to move after the second violation?)

I support enforcement, but ten officers---at least 6 of whom were talking to one another---seems like a wasteful situation and one that will draw the ire of budget conscious citizens.

Posted by: bizness | July 30, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

What ya mean? They're doing a great job, raising revenue for the guberman.

Just another way for the taxman to get you.

Posted by: blah1233242 | July 30, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Mission creep....

Posted by: blah1233242 | July 30, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

If the goal were really just to write tickets, send them down to 15th & Constitution and have them ticket all the arseholes who persist in making right turns out of the southbound second lane from the right, a lane that is plainly marked in multiple places as being for straight-ahead traffic continuing south on 15th Street. Or send them to 18th & Constitution and have them ticket the eastbound drivers who persist in going straight out of the left-turn-only lane.

Regarding 14th & F, though, about time they started enforcing the cell phone law.

Posted by: 1995hoo | July 30, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

As long as they're only writing tickets for things the impede the flow of traffic, all I can say is WRITE BABY, WRITE! I am so sick of people treating the DC parking restrictions as though they don't apply to them.

Posted by: afsljafweljkjlfe | July 30, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

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