Study: Pedestrian Collisions in D.C.

Thanks to careful city planning and accessible public transit, Washington D.C. is considered to be one of the most walkable cities in the United States.  However, as the most vulnerable road users,  the simple act of walking puts pedestrians in harm’s way.  In the District, pedestrians are struck by motor vehicles nearly three times every day.

Where are the District’s most dangerous areas for pedestrians? The Washington DC personal injury lawyers at Trombly & Singer, PLLC teamed up with data visualization and visual content agency 1 Point 21 Interactive to find out.  Together, we analyzed over 152,000 crash records and identified 5,291 pedestrian collisions in the District between 2009-2015.

5,291 Pedestrian Collisions from 2009-2015


Key Findings

  • The highest concentration of pedestrian collisions occurred in the Downtown area, followed by Dupont Circle and Columbia Heights.
  • The most dangerous place for pedestrians is the intersection at Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road, with 10 collisions and 14 injuries.
  • There were 938 intersections or addresses where at least two pedestrian collisions occurred and 374 with at least three.
  • 15 of the top 25 most dangerous locations were within two blocks of a Metro station.

Map of D.C. Area Pedestrian Collisions By Neighborhood

DC Pedestrian Accidents

Highest Concentration of Pedestrian Collisions: 333 in Downtown Area

Downtown, Chinatown, Penn Quarter, Mount Vernon Square, North Capitol Street

Downtown D.C. Pedestrian Accidents

It likely comes as no surprise that the downtown area had the highest volume of pedestrian accidents, as the area has over 500 signalized intersections (the most of any area).  There were 333 pedestrian collisions in the Downtown, Chinatown, Penn Quarter, Mount Vernon Square, North Capitol Street neighborhoods.

What Can Be Done?

The District is in the process of implementing a “Vision Zero” action plan.  This program has identified speeding, distracted drivers and people ignoring traffic signals as the main concerns in regard to motor vehicle safety.  All three of these factors likely disproportionately affect pedestrians, given how vulnerable they are to injury.  This is especially true when drivers exceed speed limits.  From 2010-2014, 66 percent of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities occurred on streets with posted speed limits of 25 miles per hour and 94 percent occurred on 35 mph or lower streets.  This illustrates how important it is to find a way to curb speeding behavior and reduce speed on arterial streets to protect pedestrians.

The Vision Zero plan also emphasizes improving sidewalks, upgrading signage and signals in areas with high numbers of pedestrians and bicyclists, increasing penalties for dangerous behavior and educating the public on road safety.

The plan is already underway.  In fact, the most dangerous location on our list (Minnesota Ave and Benning Rd) is in the process of being upgraded.  UPDATE:  The Minnesota Avenue Revitalization Project stops 300 feet south of Benning Road.  However, at best, the city can only improve as many as three locations per year.  With over 7,000 intersections in the District, this leaves pedestrians all over the city exposed to the risk of being hit.  This is why correcting dangerous behavior (both of drivers and of pedestrians) is key to making our streets safer.

Drivers can take it upon themselves to be a part of the solution by:

  • Observing posted speed limits
  • Avoiding distraction and use of cellphones
  • Obeying all traffic signs and signals
  • Paying extra care to their surroundings and staying alert for pedestrians and bicyclists

Pedestrians can take the following steps:

  • Whenever possible, cross the street at controlled intersection or designated crosswalk
  • Watch for turning vehicles and don’t assume that they see you
  • Always walk on the sidewalk or facing traffic if no sidewalk is present
  • Don’t talk on the phone or wear head phones when crossing the street
  • Stand clear of obstacles before crossing the street (i.e. parked cars, bushes, signs)
  • If walking at night, consider carrying a flashlight or wearing reflective clothing

Methodology & Sources

Danger Index Score Formula = Crash(1) + Minor Injury (2) + Major Injury (5) + Fatality (10)

Collisions data and neighborhood shape files courtesy of District of Columbia Open Data