Road safety is an issue of great importance, yet one that is often overlooked by city leaders. The latest example is the tragic case of a Lyft passenger and driver in Washington, DC, who lost their lives in March following a collision from a reckless driver. Drivers with horrible driving records, such as the perpetrator in this case, are still allowed to remain on the roads due to various loopholes; this alarming reality is that many US cities are unable or unwilling to crack down on these predators.
New automated traffic enforcement technologies are helping to identify repeat offenders, but cities are failing to take the necessary action. According to a report from Streetsblog New York, around 22,000 drivers in the city had received 15 or more speed camera violations and five or more red-light camera violations in the first 11 months of the year, yet only 630 completed the mandatory traffic safety course and only a dozen, or three percent, had their vehicles seized.
In an effort to reduce racial disparities in traffic enforcement, several cities across the nation have already started to limit traffic stops for minor offenses. Ignition interlock devices have been used as an alternative to police response and can have a positive effect on those with heavy financial burdens. And while progress is being made, the city of Chicago conducted a study that found that drivers with 10 or more traffic camera citations over a seven-year period had at three times the risk of being involved in an injury-causing crash.
To curb the threat of dangerous drivers, cities could leverage technology such as Intelligent Speed Assistance to prevent tragedy before it happens. New York City has already begun making strides in this area by experimenting with this technology in city-owned vehicles, but more robust enforcement is needed in order to truly make a difference. Canadian cities provide an example of what this could potentially look like, as their laws make it much easier to seize the vehicles of dangerous drivers and even revoke their licenses in some cases.
Proposed solutions like this could help to ensure safe streets, protect vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists, and significantly reduce fatalities. But to truly succeed, US cities must prioritize traffic safety, be willing to identify and punish reckless drivers, and continually push for safer and more equitable roads.