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Pedestrian Safety Laws - Making the Washington, DC Area Safer for Pedestrians


Walking is an important mode of transportation for many Washington DC area residents, especially for those with limited access to a car. Approximately 3,000 pedestrians are involved in accidents with motor vehicles every year in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Current crosswalk facilities and crosswalk laws in many parts of Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia do not provide adequate safety for pedestrians. So how can pedestrian safety laws be improved so that people can feel free to walk to school, work, and to run errands?

DC Department of Transportation Pedestrian Master Plan

The District of Columbia has been trying to make the city more walkable. In, 2002, the “Street Smart” media campaign was launched to educate the community about pedestrian and bicycle safety. In 2004, the city developed a comprehensive pedestrian safety and accessibility strategy with plans to construct new sidewalks, install countdown pedestrian signals at over 1,300 intersections, improve signage throughout the city, and install red light and speed enforcement cameras.

The latest plan, devised in May 2008, will be implemented over 10 years at a total cost of over $18 million. The plan includes improvements at intersections throughout DC with significant pedestrian activity with a major focus to improve safety of pedestrians crossing at locations without a stop sign or traffic signal. Sidewalks will be added throughout the city and access to bus stops will be improved. The Pedestrian Safety Campaign Effort will also include education programs emphasizing the benefits of walking.

Read more about the DC Pedestrian Safety Plan

Commonwealth of Virginia Pedestrian Safety Plan

Virginia has designated Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinators to plan and implement a safety plan. Advocacy groups are currently trying to modify section 46.2- 924 of the Code of Virginia to require motorists to STOP, rather than yield, to any pedestrian who is crossing any roadway in a crosswalk where the posted speed limit is 35 MPH or less.

The current law requires motorists to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. “Yielding” is subject to interpretation by the driver. By making the law require motorists to STOP for pedestrians, a priority would be given to the pedestrian and make it clear to both the driver and pedestrian what is expected of each, so there is no confusion. Other states including New York and Massachusetts have successfully modified their laws requiring motorists to stop for pedestrians.

To support this cause, you should contact: Elizabeth Jones, Aide to Alexandria City Councilman Rob Krupicka; 703-838-4500; email- Elizabeth.jones@alexandriava.gov.

Maryland Department of Transportation Bicycle and Pedestrian Access Master Plan

The State of Maryland has devised a 20 year plan that includes several programs to create pedestrian and bicycle friendly” street designs, sidewalks and bike paths, shoulders, curbs, lighting and street amenities. Projects will incorporate wide sidewalks, pedestrian crossings and signalization, wider shoulders, wide curb lanes and marked bikeways. Read more About Maryland Safety Campaigns.

What can you do to help make pedestrians safer in your community?

  • Contact your delegate and urge them to strengthen crosswalk laws
  • Coordinate a Pedestrian Safety Campaign in your community
  • Supervise your children and teach them to cross roads safely (always use crosswalks and follow directions on the signals)
  • Recruit crossing guards for children on their way to and from school

Resources on Pedestrian Safety

Surface Transportation Policy Project STPP's "Mean Streets 2002" report is the latest study taking a look at pedestrian accidents in each state.

Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center PBIC is a national clearinghouse for information about pedestrian safety and health, engineering, advocacy, education, enforcement, and access and mobility.

National Center for Bicycling & Walking This organization, headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, advocates the creation of bicycle-friendly and walkable communities across the country.

Federal Highway Administration This site provides resources for the pedestrian safety practitioner and advocate.

America Walks This is a national coalition of local advocacy groups dedicated to promoting walkable communities.

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