A protester at the April rally for streets that don’t kill by Aimee Custis used with permission.

In the time I conceived the idea for this article at 2:20 pm on May 6 to when I got home to put words on paper around 9 pm, the traffic fatality count in DC had already ticked up another notch. In case you’re counting, that puts us at 10 traffic-related fatalities inside DC’s borders so far in 2019. That’s the same number as this date last year.

If you want to get really gory and granular, in the 31 days from April 5 to May 6 of this year, there have been seven fatalities. SEVEN. They were three people walking, one person bicycling, and three people traveling in cars.

2019 traffic fatalities to date by mode
Mode 2019 Percentage of total
Bicyclist 1 10%
Driver 4 40%
Motorcyclist 0 0%
Passenger 0 0%
Pedestrian 5 50%
Scooter 0 0%
Total 10 100%


Half of the 2019 fatalities to date were people who were walking, and 60% of the fatal crashes in 2019 so far occurred in Wards 7 and 8.

2019 fatal crashes by ward
Ward 2019 Percentage of total
1 0 0%
2 0 0%
3 0 0%
4 0 0%
5 3 30%
6 1 10%
7 2 20%
8 4 40%
Total 10 100%

Here are those crashes mapped out:

Click on the top left sidebar to reveal layers by year.

The most painful part? None of these people deserved to die.

On Friday night, Joshua Lorenzo Williams was walking along Southern Avenue on Friday night when a speeding driver struck him, then fled the scene. Williams died on the scene. He was 24.

The road Williams was killed on in southeast DC is notoriously dangerous for pedestrians as well as drivers. But that doesn’t mean Williams deserved to die. Like all people who travel in DC—and particularly those who reside in Wards 7 and 8 where roads are wide and access to public transportation is lacking—crossing the street shouldn’t be a death sentence.

Southern Avenue runs along the DC/Maryland border in Wards 7 and 8. Since 2015, there have been five traffic-related fatalities on Southern Avenue: Three people who were walking and two people operating vehicles or motorcycles. Four of those crashes occurred in Ward 8.

However, we may not have the whole picture of how dangerous Southern Avenue is, since some fatal crashes may have occurred just over the DC border. They may be captured by Prince George’s County or Maryland authorities, but it's hard to know without spatially-specific data.

Year Fatal crashes from Jan 1 through May 7 Total fatalities (as reported by MPD) Percentage Notes
2015 5 26 19.2% Our dataset is not complete for 2015
2016 7 28 25%
2017 10 30 33.3%
2018 9 36 25%
2019 10

As things stand right now, we’re on track for another bloody year. But another thing happened before I could send this article over to the editors: During their legislative on Tuesday, three different DC councilmembers introduced legislation aimed to help make DC safer for people who walk, scoot, or bike.

Charles Allen's bill, co-introduced and co-sponsored by most of the DC Council, would improve infrastructure, enforce of existing laws, and plan for a more equitable, less car-dependent transportation system. David Grosso's legislation would protect pedestrians by mandating curb extensions, and Brandon Todd proposed a bill to make bike-related rules part of the DC Department of Motor Vehicles’ driving test.

I encourage our local leaders to continue prioritizing safe streets for all people, and hope they will act swiftly to pass and fund this new legislation. I really don’t want to write another article like this.

Christy Kwan contributed to this article.

Rachel Maisler is an avid city cyclist and advocate who enjoys exploring DC and beyond. She represents Ward 4 on the Bicycle Advisory Council and serves on the Age-Friendly DC Task Force. When she's not fighting for safe roads, Rachel is a health policy wonk. Rachel has lived inside the Beltway since 2005 and currently resides in Petworth. She also writes for Petworth News.