DC mayor touts progress in reducing traffic deaths

DC mayor touts progress in reducing traffic deaths
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Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) on Friday touted progress in the District's efforts to reduce traffic fatalities and improve roads, even as she cautioned that there was more work to be done.

“We are of course tracking this very closely and we recognize that 2016 was in fact one of the safest years on record for pedestrians in the District of Columbia," the mayor said, speaking at an all-day conference on traffic safety at George Washington University.

Overall, Bowser said there were 28 traffic deaths in the district last year.

"We had a total of 28 fatalities ... and that is 28 too many,” she noted.

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The traffic fatality rate within the District has fallen in recent years. According to Metropolitan Police Department data, from 1999 to 2007 traffic deaths in D.C. averaged over 60 per year, while from 2008 to 2016 that number fell to about 32 per year.

Bowser in February 2015 committed the District to “Vision Zero,” a project to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2024.

The effort was in response to former Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxWeek ahead in tech: Lawmakers turn focus to self-driving cars Six contenders to be Uber's new CEO Obama’s Transportation chief given Super Bowl tickets by Hollywood studio exec MORE’s challenge to U.S. mayors to do more on traffic safety.

While D.C. is seeing progress, though, nationally it’s a different picture.

Over 40,000 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2016 in the U.S., according to a February report of the National Safety Council, a research and advocacy organization. That 2016 figure marked a 6 percent increase over 2015 and a 14 percent increase over 2014 — representing the sharpest two-year rise in over 50 years.

Vision Zero is also the result of an international effort to eliminate traffic fatalities globally, which began in Sweden in 1997.

Nearly 30 cities across the U.S. are committed to initiatives similar to D.C.’s, according to the Vision Zero Network, including Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago.

Bowser also said that while over 90 percent of major roads in the District are rated as in good condition, 30 percent of residential roads are rated as “poor” with another portion rated as “fair.”

She said these local roads are in need of attention and vowed to push the D.C. City Council to do more.

“I am going to move through the — propose to the council, and I talked about it yesterday, a commitment to improving the local roads in Washington D.C.,” she said.

Representatives from AAA Mid-Atlantic and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association also spoke at Friday’s event, which featured experts and advocates in the fields of public health and traffic safety. Many conference attendees are involved in traffic safety at the federal, state and local levels.