**FILE** A crossing guard helps pedestrians cross the street near Turner Elementary School. (Ja'Mon Jackson/The Washington Informer)
**FILE** A crossing guard helps pedestrians cross the street near Turner Elementary School. (Ja'Mon Jackson/The Washington Informer)

As the D.C. Council considers legislation that puts negligent drivers at further risk of license revocation, District teachers, administrators and parents continue to guide children along heavily congested corridors and intersections in the hopes of preventing accidents like those that have seriously injured and even killed young people in recent years. 

On Alabama Avenue near Stanton Road in Southeast, crossing guards and Safe Passage coordinators establish a presence on both sides of Turner Elementary School where impatient drivers have been known to speed through crosswalks filled with children and parents during rush hour. 

Even with the inclusion of traffic lights, some people, like a teacher who requested anonymity, demand more be done to address the legions of inexperienced and uninsured drivers traveling across state lines to acquire temporary tags and license plates from other jurisdictions.  

Though the teacher expressed appreciation for the Automated Traffic Enforcement Effectiveness Amendment Act, they remain skeptical about whether it would deter people who circumvent driving laws. 

“People can operate cars without full training,” the teacher said. “This is a loophole [and] hit and runs [involve] people who are not fully licensed and insured.  A conversation must be had with states that allow people to skip credentialing.” 

Currently, drivers who get tickets through traffic cameras, or automated traffic enforcement, have to pay a fee. Some drivers collect hundreds, and even thousands, of dollars in tickets that place them in economic hardship. 

If the D.C. Council approves the Automated Traffic Enforcement Effectiveness Amendment Act, District drivers would accumulate one point for moving violations caught by traffic cameras, including running stop signs and red lights, and driving at more than 11 miles per hour above the speed limit.

Drivers would get one additional point for violations that take place in school zones. 

Drivers who accumulate more than five points stand the risk of getting their cars towed or immobilized with a “boot.” 

The legislation triggers the same response for vehicles carrying counterfeit tags. The director of the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles would also be responsible for sending a biannual report to the insurance companies of drivers who’ve made several traffic violations. 

Safeguards in the bill include the waiving of a violation after two years and a process through which drivers can challenge violations doled out when they weren’t operating their vehicle. Drivers could also get their points waived by completing a driver safety course. 

D.C. Council member Christina Henderson (I-At large), who introduced the bill on Sept. 19 with Council members Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Elissa Silverman (I-At large), Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), and Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), touted the additional point for school zone violations as an important factor in encouraging people to drive more carefully. 

“Careful and safe driving is important regardless, however, knowing that they are in a school zone should prompt drivers to be more hyper-aware of their surroundings,” Henderson said. “We have had too many injuries, fatalities, and dangerous ‘near miss’ collisions, primarily in communities across the [Anacostia] River, within school zones.”

Over the past couple of years, nearly half of the District’s traffic deaths occured east of the Anacostia River. In 2021, traffic-related deaths reached a 10-year high with 37 people. Vision Zero, a program put in place by the Bowser administration in 2015, has bore the brunt of criticism from parents and ANC commissioners alike who say it hasn’t gone far enough in curbing dangerous driving, even with the installation of speed bumps, protected bike lanes, traffic cameras and other mechanisms. 

Along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Anacostia, students from Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter High School, Excel Academy and Savoy Elementary School navigate heavy traffic and construction along the corridor during rush hour. 

Even with the help of Safe Passage workers and teachers, some people, like Raymond Weeden, wonder how coordination between District agencies could make construction less of an obstruction for drivers and pedestrians. 

Weeden, executive director of Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter High School, commended the D.C. Council for taking on the issue of traffic safety. However, he too questioned whether adding points to driver’s licenses would prove effective.  

“I think it will be a deterrent for some people [but] I worry that it takes one car to run a red light and a young person or seasoned person to get hit in the crosswalk,” Weeden said. 

“I’m curious to hear from other locales that have proven this as a true mitigation strategy. I know we have a lot of revenue on tickets [so] it shocks me that this is being championed.”

Did you like this story?
Would you like to receive articles like this in your inbox? Free!

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. Mayor, all councilmember who voted for and the Chairman …do not have a clue about street safety by further punishing the common, decent D.C. driver in an effort to stop bad and dangerous behavior of ” young, ignorant, self-serving” irresponsible young folks and adults.

    The Mayor needs to be fired as Superintendent of School…she has no professional education background and has totally failed. Education, Education and more Education is the key to resolve the decay of the District of Columbia. Most accidents (50%) are in Wards 7 & 8 due to the elected officials failure to improve schools, invest in the community by involving families and children in those “high risks” communities.

    Bowser is too immature and is busy with development ; this is the reason why street crime, shooting deaths and public fear has increase in the city. Bowser , Mendelson and the current council are no Chairman David Clark, Wilhelmina Rolark, Frank Smith, John Wilson, Hilda Mason, Jim Nathenson City Council [they] would never allowed developers to take Barry Farms and gentrification to push Black families out of the District. Bowser is not from the “Civil Rights” generation and does not respect this history.

    Bowser turned her back on Corry Master’s threat to her Ward 7 Youth Tennis Program. Elder Dr. Dorothy Height and Maya Angelo was slighted by Mayor Fenty went they were turned down to have a meeting about the tennis program future budget funding. Only, Black Woman who called Fenty out on this disrespect of our Elders was – Ward 7 Yvette Alexander.

    Bowser, Ward 4 Councilwoman; did not award or give any public recognition to the Calvin Coolidge H.S. Boys football team upon winning the city’s Inter high Football Championship. But what was more appalling…the all boys football team won with the City’s first Black Female Football Coach. Bowser has no Black Sisterhood in her soul.
    Bowser has not come out on the lawsuit by young, Black female D.C. police cadets charges of sex harassment from the police trainers in the MPD.

    Bowser, failed to provide to the public her promised investigation report on the Ballou HS Senior Graduation Scandal. As Bowser touted her achievement in the graduation of seniors at Ballou – WAMU radio reporters found that more than half the graduates missed classes and did not attend class at all – but they graduated.

    Bowser failed to report or conduct an investigation, at my alma mater (Payne Elementary School) , of a young girl being sexually accosted. Come to find out, several public schools have records of female students being sexually accosted or molested. Bowser is no Black Female or Mother since her maternal instinct have not been displayed or have kicked-in by these serious incidents.

    Believe me, this is no hatred of Muriel Bowser or the Council and Chairman – but having the experience when the David Clark’s Council stood up for the Black middle class and working class in the District…against the Hechingers, William C. Smiths, and other White/Caucasian businesses who coexisted during the Black occupation of the District of Columbia.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *