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DC lowers speed limits, community leaders call for road changes and traffic safety

Flags and new 25-mile-per-hour signs now line two major commuter routes: Connecticut Avenue, NW and New York Avenue, NE.

WASHINGTON — Will lower speed limits make D.C. streets safer? District leaders sure hope so and are dropping speed limits on some of the city's busiest roads. It's part of Mayor Muriel Bowser's Vision Zero Plan to decrease speeding deaths.
Drivers may have already noticed the first phase.

Flags and new 25-mile-per-hour signs now line two major commuter routes: Connecticut Avenue, NW and New York Avenue, NE. But when can we see changes to another dangerous road that already cost a 9-year-old his life?

"This should have first preference," said Herman Weaver a long-time resident of Congress Heights. 

Weaver believes any traffic changes the city plans should first come to Wheeler Road, SE. This road has already proven to be deadly, taking the life of 9-year-old Kaidyn Green who passed away after being hit by a car outside of his charter school (KIPP DC) last year.

“Drivers treat Southern Avenue and Wheeler Road like a racetrack,” said Weaver, “on average they go 50, 60 miles per hour."

Right now, the speed limit on Wheeler Road from the district line at Southern Avenue until the school zone about four blocks away - is 30 miles per hour. That will change. The District Department of Transportation will be dropping the limit to 25 miles per hour. Weaver said it won’t work – without enforcement. 

“In my opinion, the doggone police don't do their job!" he exclaimed. 

DDOT said dropping speeds by 5 miles an hour increases a driver's reaction time and makes crashes less deadly.

“DDOT can't force people to slow down,” said ANC 8C Commission Chairperson Salim Adofo.  

WUSA9 reached out to DDOT to find out why Wheeler Road is a couple of months away and what other plans are in store for the area. Commissioner Adofo acknowledges traffic safety is a concern all over the city but there are more traffic-related deaths in Ward 7 and 8. He also said enforcement is a sensitive issue to tackle regarding fines and who pays them, however, he believed a lower speed limit simply is not enough.

“Ultimately, we're going to have to put in physical barriers to slow people down,” he said.  

DDOT installed barriers outside of KIPP DC where the boy was hit.  That end of Wheeler Road is narrowed to one lane and surrounded by poles and brightly colored signs.

“We want to make sure that the enforcement piece is there. Whether it's the cameras, whether it’s an officer, or whether it's just the infrastructure that's put in place, we have to exercise all options,” said Adofo. 

Another possible tool to slow drivers down is a proposed bill in the DC Council linked to the existing speed cameras around the city. The bill, introduced by Councilmember At-large Christina Henderson would allow the city to fine a driver for speeding and add points to their driver's license. Of course, that assumes the speeding driver is the owner of the car. If that's not the case, you'd have to appeal the process.

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