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New D.C. bill would induce reckless drivers to take remedial driving courses

After a certain number of high-risk violations, their vehicles would be impounded

The light trail from cars speeding through an intersection near a federal capital building. Two bike lanes go through the intersection in either direction.
An intersection near the U.S. Capitol
Getty Images

As the city grapples with reducing traffic deaths and serious injuries under its Vision Zero initiative, new legislation introduced Tuesday could help prevent dangerous driving in the long term. The “Reckless Driver Accountability Act of 2019,” modeled on a similar program in New York City, would nudge motorists who have risky driving records to take a remedial course, lest their vehicles be booted or impounded by the city after a certain amount of time.

At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman proposed the bill along with five other members during a D.C. Council meeting. Under the bill, the city could take offline any cars associated with five tickets for speeding or running a red light, or three tickets for speeding by over 25 miles an hour above the speed limit, within a year. Drivers would have 10 days after getting notice of the last violation to enroll in an official reckless-driver program and also 90 days to finish the class, which would feature small group sessions and a restorative-justice approach.

“Some drivers are egregious repeat offenders, toting up to tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of speeding tickets,” Silverman said in a statement. “They are a very real threat to not only pedestrians and cyclists but other drivers on the road. We need to get them to slow down, and this program has done just that in New York,” where rearrest rates for reckless driving fell by 40 percent in a preliminary study. The bill would apply to all vehicles in D.C., whether they are registered in the city or not. Impounded vehicles would not be released until drivers complete the remedial course. Additionally, the course would be open to the general public.

This past September, running red lights and speeding were cited in nearly 90 percent of the traffic tickets issued in the District, according to Silverman’s office. The risk of fatality also increases with driving speed. So far in 2019, more than 20 people have died in D.C. crashes. The proposal has been referred to the Council’s transportation committee for consideration. That committee recently held a long public hearing on a series of different Vision Zero bills.