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D.C. program to warn risky drivers about crashes


The District is preparing to conduct a pilot program aimed at reducing traffic collisions by sending warning messages to drivers deemed to be highly likely to be involved in a crash.

Officials are planning to identify high-risk drivers using statistics from the District’s Automated Traffic Enforcement System, which takes photos and videos of cars that run red lights, roll past stop signs and exceed the speed limit. Drivers who commit such violations may receive a citation.

“Evidence from multiple jurisdictions suggests that drivers with multiple violations are more likely to be involved in traffic crashes, and that a small number of drivers are responsible for a large number of crashes,” according to the website for The Lab @ D.C., an agency within Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office that is leading the project.

As part of the research initiative, a group of randomly assigned high-risk motorists will receive customized messages that might address their previous violations and the potential risk of a fatal crash.

The number of red light and speed violations, as well as crashes from the group of high-risk drivers who receive messages, will then be compared to a group that did not receive messages.

The goal of the “Identifying and Intervening with High Risk Drivers” project is to determine “whether proactive, customized messaging can change driver behavior and make our roads safer,” according to the website.

As of Tuesday, the project is reportedly in the “implementation” phase. The results are expected to be released in 2022 and they may be used to help shape programs and policies to help curtail serious crashes.

Several city agencies are listed as program partners, including the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles and the Metropolitan Police Department.

“Through this study, we hope to see a correlation between education and behavior changes among drivers who repeatedly speed and run red lights, two violations that we know are extremely dangerous for all users of our transportation network,” a DDOT spokesperson said in an email.

The program is part of the mayor’s commitment to the “Vision Zero” initiative, which aims to eliminate traffic-related deaths and serious injuries in the city by 2024 by using data, education, enforcement and engineering.

“Every life lost on our roadways is one too many,” DDOT Director Jeff Marootian said in a statement on the website. “Under Mayor Bowser’s leadership, we continuously focus our efforts on advancing our Vision Zero goals and creating safer streets, especially in those corridors where fatalities are more frequent.”

City data show that 11 of the 36 fatal traffic crashes this year occurred in Ward 8, which makes up the majority, followed by 10 in Ward 7. Ward 8 also accounted for the majority of fatal crashes last year and in 2018.

In addition, nine of last year’s 36 fatalities were linked to drunken driving, which is a 125% increase compared to 2018, when four such fatalities were recorded, according to a report released Monday by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

The Lab @ D.C. did not respond to requests for information about the project’s cost, the statistics will determine which drivers receive messages and how the messages will be sent.

The agency is an applied research team housed within the Office of the City Administrator that is supported by Arnold Ventures, a philanthropic organization that seeks to help solve public issues.

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