In response to an uptick in fatal traffic crashes last year, the District in February will start to prohibit drivers from making right turns when traffic lights are red at 101 intersections. D.C. officials selected the intersections “based on crash history, level of pedestrian activity, and other factors and criteria,” according to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT).
More than a third of the intersections are located in Ward 2, which includes downtown, and about a fifth are in Ward 6, which covers Shaw, Capitol Hill, Navy Yard, and Southwest. The city’s six other wards are to get between four and 11 no-right-turn-on-red intersections each.
DDOT says it will probably finish installing the necessary signs at all 101 intersections before August and a public comment period for the proposal ends on Feb. 5. The Federal Highway Administration explains that although right turns on red took off in the 1970s as a means of saving fuel, they have “sometimes had detrimental effects on pedestrians” (not to mention cyclists): Drivers may be “so intent on looking for traffic approaching on their left that they may not be alert to pedestrians on their right,” or pull into crosswalks, or fail to make a stop.
Kent Boese, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 1—which includes Columbia Heights and Park View—created the below map of the targeted intersections using DDOT’s official list of them. Some, like 14th and U streets NW, are considered among the city’s most dangerous intersections in terms of traffic safety, registering the highest number of crashes.
Some community members have called for a complete ban on right turns on red, saying it would make the policy easier to enforce and better improve safety. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration has said it first wants to assess the effectiveness of the bans at specific sites.
The effort is part of D.C.’s Vision Zero initiative to eliminate traffic deaths by 2024. Thirty-four people died in crashes on District streets last year, according to police data, a jump of more than 13 percent over 2017. Other Vision Zero strategies include retiming traffic signals, designating more space for ride-hailing pick-ups and drop-offs, and creating more bike lanes.
Our new left turn calming infrastructure helps prevent drivers from cutting corners and making loose left turns. Here's one of several intersections that we've made safer already: 14th St and Columbia Rd NW. #ward1 #VisionZeroDC— DDOT DC (@DDOTDC) January 4, 2019
More details ➡️ https://t.co/qzZBgShrDf pic.twitter.com/h6gaAj46ii
DDOT also recently installed “left-turn calming” infrastructure at five intersections in a pilot program it plans to expand to 85 intersections over the next two years: 7th and T streets NW, 9th and M streets NW, 11th and I streets SE, 14th Street and Columbia Road NW, and 13th and I streets NW. Additionally, these traffic rules took effect on Jan. 1, per Bowser’s office:
- “Unless otherwise signed, all roadways adjacent to schools, youth facilities will have a 15 mph speed limit from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
- Unless otherwise signed, all roadways adjacent to recreation facilities, playgrounds, pools, athletic fields, and senior centers will have a 15 mph speed limit from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
- A three-point penalty and a $500 fine will be issued for drivers who overtake a vehicle stopped at a crosswalk for a pedestrian.
- Speeding 30 mph in excess of the speed limit is a criminal offense, and speeding 26 mph in excess of the speed limit will carry additional fines on highways and typical roadways.”
This post has been updated with more information on left-turning calming infrastructure.