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Boy's death in Georgetown spurs debate over traffic safety

The boy that was struck by a woman driving her car near the intersection of Wisconsin and 33rd St. died yesterday. This has led at least one news source to question whether that intersection is safe without traffic lights or stop signs.

The question of who is more at fault for the tragedy has not been publicly answered. WJLA has eyewitness reports that the child ran into the street and was not crossing at the crosswalk. Another witness claims, however, that the driver wasn't paying attention and was using her cellphone, although it's not clear whether she saw the accident firsthand.

Either way, a tragedy has occurred in Georgetown. It seems indisputable that the design of the intersection played some role in the collision. It is an oddly shaped intersection in the middle of a long stretch of road without a light or sign controlling Wisconsin Avenue traffic.

But any attempt to install a light at the intersection would likely be faced with opposition. Why? Because of what happened just a few feet away when DDOT installed a light at Reservoir Rdoad and Wisconsin. Namely, some drivers started using Reservoir just west of Wisconsin who had otherwise avoided it because of the difficulty of turning left onto Wisconsin.

33rd Street already gets a lot of northbound traffic from drivers attempting to avoid congestion on Wisconsin. This traffic on 33rd is discouraged somewhat by the perceived difficulty of turning onto northbound Wisconsin. Adding a light would change that.

Is opposition from residents of 33rd Street a good enough reason from adding a light at that intersection? I don't think so, so long as traffic engineers conclude that a lighted traffic crossing is the best way to increase the safety of that intersection.

But Georgetown has more than one dangerous crosswalk without traffic lights or stop signs, including:

  • Volta and Wisconsin
  • P and Wisconsin
  • O and Wisconsin
  • Grace and Wisconsin
  • South Street and Wisconsin
Should we install a light at each of these intersections? Probably not, but how about a stop sign? I think it's worth considering. I can speak from experience that it is intimidating attempting to cross Wisconsin without a traffic light or stop sign.

It's particularly bad for Wisconsin and 33rd because the road widens and drivers heading north feel free of Georgetown congestion and thus speed up. Also, it's at the bottom of a hill with a stop light at the top, so people naturally speed up going into it.

Knowing that a stop sign is there to reinforce the notion that the car shouldn't just cruise through the intersection would be comforting. (Notice the first clip in the piece above: a car honking at a pedestrian for crossing legally. That's the attitude we have to deal with.)

After I posted this article on my own site, commenters suggested that the answer is more enforcement. I don't disagree that enforcement is lacking. On the side streets of Georgetown, commuters bypassing Wisconsin Avenue blow through stop signs constantly.

But there is only so much that enforcement can achieve. The road itself must be designed in a way to discourage reckless driving. That means considering traffic calming measures like keeping the roadway narrow and installing something, anything, at crosswalks to constantly remind drivers that they must share the road.

Cross-posted at The Georgetown Metropolitan.

Topher Mathews has lived in the DC area since 1999. He created the Georgetown Metropolitan in 2008 to report on news and events for the neighborhood and to advocate for changes that will enhance its urban form and function. A native of Wilton, CT, he lives with his wife and daughter in Georgetown.  


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On the side streets of Georgetown, commuters bypassing Wisconsin Avenue blow through stop signs constantly.

Does video footage of this exist anywhere? That could really help make a compelling case.

by Rob on Jul 15, 2010 11:57 am • linkreport

Another aspect to it is that there's little enforcement over drivers not yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks without lights in Georgetown. I frequently do business that requires crossing at a crosswalk on Reservoir Road. I've noticed (and several friends and colleagues have confirmed) that drivers tend to accelerate when they see pedestrians trying to cross. Perhaps it's to dissuade them. Drivers rarely yield unless I throw myself into a cross walk in front of their cars, and even then they tend to honk as though they have the right of way. Drivers in that area seem to not be trained to yield to pedestrians in crosswalk. It's an unsafe situation. My guess is that hundred dollar fines every time they fail to yield would go a long way to training them.

by GrandArch on Jul 15, 2010 12:07 pm • linkreport

Video footage isn't needed. Stand for 5 minutes at any intersection in Georgetown. Cars slow down to about 5 to 10 miles an hour, see that no other car is at the intersection, and they accelerate before they even reach the stop sign.

by To Rob on Jul 15, 2010 12:16 pm • linkreport

It's important to not be over-reactionary to these incidents. If the intersection is found to be unsafe, then by all means place bigger stop signs, traffic lights, or whatever it takes there.

On the other hand, over on Capitol Hill, we've unfortunately had our share of similar incidents, and almost every intersection now has a stop sign, which makes the relatively short North-South trip from Florida Ave to the Southeast Freeway (the vague boundaries of the neighborhood) take quite a long time to drive or bike. A few of the stop-signed intersections are actively dangerous because the signs are small or covered up. A few more or dangerous, because their placement is illogical, and cars don't expect to have to stop in the middle of a block, and thus aren't actively looking for stop signs.

On the flipside, we have intersections like the 3-way intersection of L, 9, and WV Ave, where L St and WV Ave *both* have the right of way. If you value your life, you should stop if you're on L, but there's presently no signage indicating this, and I've witnessed a number of close calls. DDOT have scheduled a safety review, but no action has been taken. A portion of my street is also currently signed as a one-way street (which it isn't).

by andrew on Jul 15, 2010 12:16 pm • linkreport

"has led" David, not "has lead."

by Jazzy on Jul 15, 2010 12:20 pm • linkreport

It would be great to see enforcement of pedestrian safety laws stepped up. And this is not the only intersection where there are problems. For drivers, DC's wides streets create a false sense of openess and speed. The result is a game of chicken between drivers and pedestrians at many crossings.

by aaa on Jul 15, 2010 12:24 pm • linkreport

Jazzy: The author's name is Topher, not David, but I've fixed the typo.

by David Alpert on Jul 15, 2010 12:28 pm • linkreport

Hi, The problem is that drivers in DC simply dont stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.

The law says (as those rare little yellow signs remind us) to stop when there is a pedestrian in the crosswalk. But no one does.

The solution is not to put up a billion stop lights and stop signs. The solution is to (somehow?) change the culture of ignoring pedestrian rights-of-way in cross walks.

In England, drivers almost always stop for pedestrians at these cross walks.

by Jimbo on Jul 15, 2010 12:34 pm • linkreport

Yeah, more stop signs. Why does everybody assign magical features to stop signs? They're about the worst traffic regulation on the book.

by Jasper on Jul 15, 2010 12:34 pm • linkreport

They need to funnel 33rd down so that it forms a true 90 degree intersection with Wisconsin. One lane wide, and maybe even put a pedestrian controlled traffic light for cars trying to get onto Wisconsin. Either that or just make 33rd no-thru north of Dent.

by Lou on Jul 15, 2010 12:46 pm • linkreport

I am going to assume for arguments sake, that the witness (first one even though the second one admitted they weren't in a cross walk either) is correct. That the family, kids and all ran out into the street mid-intersection, against the light/sign etc. Most commentors above seem to have gone off reservation by blaming drivers who don't stop at intersections. Umm, hello, this wasn't an intersection or a cross walk. Different issue for a different time.

If that is the case, then there is "no" investigation that can be done, no need to spend money on "safety" improvements. What are they going to do, hang redlights mid-block of every street in town? All the signals and crosswalks in the world don't matter at all if people actively ignore them.

You could line every road in DC with concrete walls and issue every pedestrian NFL linebacker pads, but it wouldn't matter you can't save people from themselves.

It is certainly sad some child died, but that doesn't make it the roads fault, nor the drivers.

by nookie on Jul 15, 2010 12:49 pm • linkreport

Another question not answered so far by news reports is why the kid wasn't in a crosswalk, assuming he wasn't. Was it because the crosswalk was blocked by another driver (a frequent scenario at unsignaled intersections)?

It's a radical and unrealistic thought, I know, but what if we made all of Georgetown into a woonerf -- say bounded by 34th & Wisconsin, the river, and 28th Street (or maybe extending over the bridge to 26th). It's already heavily pedestrian; maybe this is the place where we should make the (first) stand that streets are for everyone.

by Eileen on Jul 15, 2010 12:54 pm • linkreport

And just to clarify, that one witness tweet does not say the driver was using their cellphone. It's implied in the second sentence.

If the witness saw the driver on their phone, they should have given that statement to police.

by Lou on Jul 15, 2010 1:05 pm • linkreport


That the family, kids and all ran out into the street mid-intersection, against the light/sign etc.

Windshield Perspective Example #3882333. The intersection is described as "without traffic lights or stop signs" in the second sentence of the above post, yet the entire family ran out into the intersection "against the light etc..."

We must never, ever forget that whatever a driver does, that's legitimate. Every other road user--whether pedestrian, cyclist, or pogo-stick--is responsible when things go wrong.

Next we'll hear that the *real* tragedy is the driver's, since surely they're upset about killing someone...

by oboe on Jul 15, 2010 1:13 pm • linkreport


"cars don't expect to have to stop in the middle of a block," I'm pretty sure cars aren't doing any of the thinking... Drivers think.

by Cullen on Jul 15, 2010 1:18 pm • linkreport

Can anyone substantiate the tweet of the second witness?

by Tim on Jul 15, 2010 1:23 pm • linkreport


Clearly, the only logical conclusion here is to charge the family of the boy for the damage that his inappropriately located body (on the road, not the sidewalk where the lesser pedestrians belong) did to the car. And I'm sure there are some associated clean-up costs that the city could tack on as well.

On a serious note, speed limits exist so that drivers can stop in a safe distance in case something or someone "runs out" into the street. I doubt the boy was hiding behind a van, waiting to jump in front of this unsuspecting driver just to prove a point about road safety. If the cars are going too fast on that street (even legally) perhaps, as one of the people in the video said, they should be lowered.

by Teyo on Jul 15, 2010 1:23 pm • linkreport


No doubt. If that car was driving under the speed limit, I'll eat a shoe. Not a chance. Cue the usual suspects with arguments about how the speed limit is artificially low because today's cars are better at handling tight curves at high speeds. It's all about stealing money out of the pockets of drivers.

by oboe on Jul 15, 2010 1:27 pm • linkreport


Perhaps my engineering-sense is a little self-righteous, but I'm of a mind that education/enforcement are the least effective of approaches... not to say they're not effective, but the least effective as compared to eliminating an issue entirely through design. Of course, sometimes it's not feasible to redesign something to eliminate it... and yes, that's where education/enforcement then come into play.

With enforcement, however, unless there are regular officers that can be committed to a location or unless an automated devices can be designed to enforce an issue: the moment that enforcer leaves, the problem tends to come back. Some people may get a mindset of "I saw a cop there once" and mentally classify it as a place that's strongly enforced... but on the average people are quick to learn what is and is not actually enforced stringently & regularly.

The fact of the matter is that manpower among police agencies is always too short, and the list of locations people wish to see enforced is always too long. If an officer is enforcing this location, that means they're not enforcing another location.

Cars not stopping for crosswalks is an outright epidemic owing more to our design of roads & crossings than angry & aggressive drivers. Even though I tend to identify with Hobbes on most philosophical levels, when it comes to roads I sound more like Locke: I believe that all users (motorists, bicyclists, peds, etc.) *want* to do the right thing, but road design may subconsciously encourage us to do otherwise.

I'd be curious to know how far from the crosswalk the child (reportedly) was... as Eileen noted, was he just sidestepping around a vehicle stopped on the crosswalk, or did the collision occur a more significant distance away? In either case, it's still a tragedy, though it does shed some light on how people should be cautious about pointing fingers. Also, it's an unfortunate truth that sometimes drivers can lose attention and not notice it... and similarly so, too, can pedestrians.


A traffic signal would be somewhat more complex given the proximity to the existing signal at Reservoir. "Complex", when stated in the traffic engineering world, tends to equate to both slower & more dangerous for all users... so while I wouldn't disregard a signal entirely, it'd certainly be something that should be approached with great caution.

Stop signs could be an option, but once again the proximity to the Reservoir signal could create an issue, particularly if the Reservoir signal operates with a short signal cycle. That is, when SB traffic gets a green: that platoon of cars forms a surge onto the stop sign at 33rd... which results in a queue blocking the Reservoir intersection. If that traffic doesn't clear by the time Reservoir gets a green, they could be locked out of ever getting through the intersection.

Furthermore, as a number have noted, stop signs tend to not be particularly effective... though it's important to not compare apples & oranges. There are a LOT of stop signs which are outright unnecessary & would serve just as well either with less stop signs or as a yield control, and drivers are quick to sense which those are... that's where the vast majority of people roll right on through. Yes it's technically illegal and certainly not pleasant if you're a ped, bike, or on the cross-street... but part of the blame should also be on design; not just the drivers.

Good stop signs are ones where there's a clear need: there's always cars on the cross-street; always pedestrians using the crosswalk; always this or always that... not just a "sometimes there is" condition. Because "sometimes there is" conditions often end up actually being "usually there's not peds; not bikes; not cross-street traffic..."

(Mini-)roundabouts would be a tough fit given the offset nature of the intersections, the proximity of adjacent buildings, and again the proximity of the Reservoir signal. Furthermore, without knowing the turning movements & how traffic operates, one would have to ensure that side-street traffic doesn't lock out the mainline.


First, lower speed limits does not inherently result in lower speeds. People tend to drive what their natural speed is regardless of speed limit, and this speed is usually the 85th percentile speed; that is, the speed at which 85% of motorists is driving at or less. This is derived from the Bell Curve -- the same curve used among school grades... roughly 15% of students should be getting A's and roughly 15% should be getting F's. Those 85% of motorists are your grade A through D drivers, with your F drivers being the remaining 15%.

A proper speed limit reduces the pace, or span, of speeds among motorists... providing a more consistent speed which helps reduce distraction among motorists but also helps others users (peds, bikes, motorists on side-streets) with determining the speed of approaching vehicles. Crash rates tend to be lower where speed limits reflect the 85th %-ile speed.

Now that's not to say I'm against lower speeds, but one doesn't achieve lower speeds by changing the signs alone. This must be accomplished through other means. Hence, I agree that one route may be to look into traffic calming measures and methods of increasing a motorists' awareness of the adjacent environment, especially given that it's a very straight roadway -- those tend to naturally encourage higher speeds and a straightward field of vision & attention span.

Looking at the cross-section in Google Earth, one thought that comes to mind is narrowing it by a lane and alternating the parking from side to side, forming chicanes along its length. I've seen this in a number of cities across the pond, but more locally State College, PA, (Penn State) did this on one of their major arterials (Beaver Ave) and was well-received. It calmed traffic, shortened crossing-distances, and maintained some on-street parking (though a new garage did help to compensate for the loss of half of the on-street parking).

Or alternately, perhaps bump-outs / bulb-outs at the crossings to shorten their distances & cut down on what appears to be excess pavement... but then again, I know zilch about how the traffic in this area operates, so perhaps that space is being used for other purposes that would have to be considered.

I'm sure I could ponder more ideas... but lunchtime has come to an end!

by Bossi on Jul 15, 2010 1:32 pm • linkreport

The signs either say "Stop for Pedestrians within crosswalk" or sometimes they say yield. the keyword is within. A driver does not have to stop if someone is next to a crosswalk, thinking about crossing, near a crosswalk or anything else. Only within. When people start stopping the moment they see someone anywhere near a crosswalk this creates a dangerous situation for everyone. On a multi-lane road not all drivers can see the person who starts to walk because driver #1 stopped. Thus they will not be able to stop.

Law of physics overrides law of right of way. Simple as that. If its not safe to cross, don't start to cross.

by Pete on Jul 15, 2010 1:43 pm • linkreport

Law of physics overrides law of right of way. Simple as that. If its not safe to cross, don't start to cross.

Windshield Perspective #382223: Pedestrians may *legally* have the right of way, but if they exercise it, drivers will kill them. And they can't be blamed, because they're going way too fast to stop. Which is not actually the problem, because speed limits are too low anyway. There's absolutely nothing that can be done to require drivers to drive slowly in congested urban areas. That's because it's perfectly safe and natural to drive 35 or even 45 miles an hour in these areas--as long as pedestrians aren't trying to cross the street. Which they shouldn't. Because cars are going to fast to stop.

by oboe on Jul 15, 2010 1:59 pm • linkreport

I don't know what can be done - we have a culture where traffic laws are treated as optional. I've seen cars in Georgetown run through red lights with pedestrians in a crosswalk. And remember the traffic control officer who was killed at Wisconsin and M? That had a light and he was directing traffic, but he was hit and killed.

But I also see people stepping off the curb, at the intersection or in mid-block, and heading across the street without even looking at traffic. So what's to be done?

by Todd on Jul 15, 2010 2:02 pm • linkreport

Law of physics overrides law of right of way. Simple as that. If its not safe to cross, don't start to cross.

Speaking to this: it may be time to resurrect the day-glo orange cinder-block. You put them at crosswalks, and pedestrians pick them up and carry them across the street. If a car fails to yield ROW, the pedestrian--in his haste to get out of the way--should drop the cinder block, either on the roof of the car, or in the street in front of it.

Law of physics. If it's not safe to ignore pedestrian ROW, don't ignore pedestrian ROW.

by oboe on Jul 15, 2010 2:02 pm • linkreport

I recently saw a driver fail to yield to a UNIFORMED POLICE OFFICER who was in the crosswalk at Connecticut and Calvert in Woodley Park, and get away without a ticket. To be fair, they were tourists, but still. Just another anecdote that illustrates the problem we face here..(although, I have noticed that DC drivers tend to yield to pedestrians at a higher rate than MD/VA drivers do.)

by Phil on Jul 15, 2010 2:17 pm • linkreport


One would wonder why you are making up arguments when the facts are right there.

1. There was no intersection. The family/kid ran out into the street, i.e. "jaywalked". End of story. This wasn't a driver soft rolling through a stop sign. There was no stop sign just as there was no crosswalk. Get it? They could have exercised better judgement and walked to one, but didn't and unfortunately this happened.

Why is it that in your mind no one else save a driver of a car is remotely responsible for anything happening on or near a street?

People are responsible for their own actions. I am sorry you seem to live in a world where, even after all reasonable efforts have been made to protect you (cross walks, signals, look both ways before crossing even being taught in public schools, PSA's on TV and radio) someone ELSE is always responsible for "whatever" it is you "might" do.

I hope you don't find out the hard way that the rest of the world doesn't function like that, nor are the laws written that way.

by nookie on Jul 15, 2010 2:25 pm • linkreport


Sorry, I made the mistake of reading, understanding, then responding to the words which comprised your original post:

"That the family, kids and all ran out into the street mid-intersection, against the light/sign etc..."

I'll try not to be more careful about accurately construing your meaning in the future...

I realize this kid was nearly 12 years old, but it's pretty common for your average driver to respond to stories of this kind with "Whatever happened to parental responsibility???" As the parent of a four year old daughter who walks in this city, and *regularly* sees casual speeding, and a near-universal rolling through stop-signs and crosswalks in my residential neighborhood, I find the attitude appalling.

Maybe you could quiz the driver who killed this 11 year old boy as to why it might be that car drivers bear a greater responsibility for safe streets than, say, someone on a razor scooter. My guess is that if they had it all over to do again, they'd probably have paid more attention and slowed down.

by oboe on Jul 15, 2010 2:38 pm • linkreport

@nookie, I don't think we can conclude anything about where they were because the news doesn't have all the info. Early stories said the collision was "at" the intersection of WI and 33d; later stories said "near," but not how near. Look at the woman trying to cross the street in the photo above. The black car is obstructing the entire crosswalk. If she walks in back of it, she's "not in the crosswalk" (though she's "at" the intersection) and her view of traffic coming the other way is obstructed, as is the view of any driver coming up on the other side, and that problem would be compounded if she were a kid. If she walks in front of it, she's again outside the crosswalk, and "near" rather than "at" the intersection -- though she'll have a better view of the oncoming traffic if she does that. Also, of course, we don't have much info about what the driver was doing -- speeding? cellphone? otherwise distracted?

I'm not saying that's what happened here, just that we can't conclude "jaywalking" was the cause (or the only cause) of what happened based on the limited facts we have. And, once again, the news media aren't looking at this kind of event in any depth -- they always look at the same limited facts -- who (or what) hit who, whether the ped was in a xwalk, whether the driver was drunk or on drugs. It's more complicated than that.

Also, it's not illegal to cross a DC street between intersections if one of the intersections is unsignaled. And who can say whether it's more or less likely the kid would have been hit if he'd been "in the crosswalk."

by Eileen on Jul 15, 2010 2:40 pm • linkreport

Seems like an awful lot of solutions and conclusions without anyone actually knowing exactly what happened.

by Fritz on Jul 15, 2010 2:50 pm • linkreport


I am sorry you seem to live in a world where, even after all reasonable efforts have been made to protect you (cross walks....

Just so I can get a sense of where you're coming from...have you actually watched the video at the top of this post? I'm curious what your take on it is. Because what I see is complete and utter contempt for the law by the cars shown. Not only that, they're honking at folks trying to cross.

Sorry, that's not "all reasonable attempts" to do anything. What it is is a cultural agreement that such things as pedestrian safety are completely inconsequential.

As a *start* we should have a small dedicated group with ticket-writing powers within MPD to set up crosswalk stings every single day, setting up daily at one bad intersection after the next, writing $400 tickets.

We had this on and off for several weeks on westbound East Capitol Street at Lincoln Park, and drivers actually follow the law by stopping for pedestrians here. Granted, it's only about 50% of drivers that stop, but its a start.

by oboe on Jul 15, 2010 2:56 pm • linkreport

@ nookie: A good test of logic is to turn a situation around. You have repeatedly argued that when a pedestrian is "jaywalking", car drivers are at no fault whatsoever when they run over a pedestrian.

So, let's turn that around. Say, a car is illegally parked on a sidewalk. I am biking on the side walk and don't see the car because I come from around the corner. Is the owner of the illegally parked car on the sidewalk now responsible for the damage to my bike?

And to make the thought a bit more extreme: Can I damage any car I find illegally parked on the side walk from now on with being responsible? After all, as a pedestrian, I can not be held responsible for the car that should not be parked illegally on the sidewalk?

by Jasper on Jul 15, 2010 2:58 pm • linkreport


I like that logic. Perhaps I should start carrying a crowbar or screwdriver with which to damage all the cars illegally double-parked on bike lanes. I'm sure nookie would back me up.

by Teyo on Jul 15, 2010 3:02 pm • linkreport

In my slightly more malevolent days in college, I used to walk up & over any car stopped on the sidewalk. A couple motorists would tap the gas to try to to throw me off, others got out and yelled at me, one dude got out and took a swing at me... most just say there with flabergasted looks upon their faces. It was a fun practice whilst in my lower 20's, but not something I'd considering doing anymore... nor would I necessarily recommend.

by Bossi on Jul 15, 2010 3:14 pm • linkreport

Er... first sentence should be "...any car stopped on the *crosswalk*"; not sidewalk. Hmm, or maybe both...

by Bossi on Jul 15, 2010 3:15 pm • linkreport


Thanks for confirming that you never bothered to actually read the article, you just arrived and started responding to peoples posts not having any clue what you were talking about. It was clearly stated in the article there was no crosswalk.

From your previous posts on a variety of topics, that sounds about right.

The camera crew set up on an intersection completely not related to this story or situation. He could have just as easily set up and filmed K street by my office at lunch and watched the dozen or so bikers blow through the redlight.

Oh, my bad...that never happens.


I have never seen a car parked on a sidewalk, save for an episode of cops one time, but sure, you wanna spend the next year searching DC sidewalks for a car parked on it, then make a point by riding into it with enough force to hurt yourself, be my guest.

And I would tread lightly about keying someones car. I know you think you are all big and bad behind the annoynomity of the internet, but the last time I heard it happening was down at Connecticut and K last year when some guy keyed a car parked along the street, half blocking the cross walk. Problem was the owner was standing right there, punched the keyer unconscious and left him bleeding on Connecticut and drove away. This was all reported last ~fall. They never caught the guy.

So go ahead. Key the next car you want to. I hope you don't find out the hard way you aren't the bad ass you imagine yourself to be.

When you get the pins out of your jaw and the body cast comes off from the beating you got, please be sure to come back here and let us know how it went.

by nookie on Jul 15, 2010 3:21 pm • linkreport

Whenever I read the alias "nookie" it always made me think of a cuddly stuffed teddy bear :)

by Bossi on Jul 15, 2010 3:29 pm • linkreport


The intersection in the video looks remarkably like the one on Google's Street View at Wisconsin, 33rd, and Reservoir. Of course, it could be that the Street View car drove around randomly as well and just happened to have lucked out in finding street signs that have Wisconsin and Reservoir written on them, just like in the video.

As for keying the cars, I don't think anyone was actually advocating that. Rather, it was a demonstration of the absurdity of your point regarding how someone deserves to suffer damage if they are breaking the rules in any way. If crossing the street outside a crosswalk automatically makes you fully responsible for getting hit by a car, logic follows that parking a car illegally automatically makes damage to that car the car owner's sole responsibility. This is an absurd claim, but you only seem to realize the absurdity as it relates to cars, not to people.

Of course, many of your comments have shown that you are either aloof of the situation being discussed, blinded by sheer ignorance, or willingly choose to ignore certain aspects of a story when they don't suit the narrative you wish to bring to the conversation. Therefore, I'm not surprised that you have once again entered into a conversation spouting off with little understanding or basis in logic.

by Teyo on Jul 15, 2010 3:33 pm • linkreport


No need to get crochety. Let me take another run at this and see if I can walk you through it. The original post, along with the linked stories made absolutely clear that there was no signal or crosswalk. Right up there at the top.

Now, you came along, and in your haste to blame the 11 year old boy for his own death, proclaimed that

I am going to assume for arguments sake, that the witness (first one even though the second one admitted they weren't in a cross walk either) is correct. That the family, kids and all ran out into the street mid-intersection, against the light/sign etc...

I made the obvious observation that there were no lights, nor any stop signs, and that you had merely conjured them out of thin air, presumably in order to absolve the driver of any culpability whatsoever.

I can't tell whether you're simply confused about what you wrote, or whether you're intentionally muddying the waters in the hopes of confusing everyone else about what you wrote.

Hopefully this clarifies things for those following along at home.

One other thing that seems pretty common when discussing this stuff is this sort of perverse thrilling in fantasies of physical harm. "Pedestrians can *try* to cross the street--but if they throw down against Newton they're gonna get scraped off someone's GRILL!" or daydreams about people being beating for scraping someone's paintjob, etc...

Can there be anything more pathetic than second-hand threats of violence on an anonymous Internet comment section? I know driving around in a large vehicle has been shown to increase folks' feelings of invulnerability, but life isn't Grand Theft Auto.

Do your dignity a favor and leave that stuff alone. Thanks.

by oboe on Jul 15, 2010 3:42 pm • linkreport

That is absolutely 33rd and Wisconsin in that taped segment. I go through there at least twice a day. Maybe if the people were actually walking over old crime scene tape nookie would realize it is the area we are all talking about.

by Lou on Jul 15, 2010 3:46 pm • linkreport

That stretch is terrible for a lot of reasons.

1. Southbound traffic doesn't know whether there's one lane or two. Drivers go around cars making left turns but inevitably that causes the formation of a "second lane" of traffic on the curb. The stretch from R to Q is plagued by this.

2. You cannot get safely get a car from 33rd to Wisconsin without first blocking the crosswalk. I lived in that area for years and it's just true. It isn't just a question of seeing cars on Wisconsin, it's a question of getting their drivers to see you.

3. West of Rock Creek Park, and especially on Wisconsin and Connecticut Avenue, drivers are mean, stupid and aggressive. Say anything you want about Columbia Heights, but people stop for you in the crosswalks.

by mark on Jul 15, 2010 3:56 pm • linkreport


I have never seen a car parked on a sidewalk, save for an episode of cops one time, but sure, you wanna spend the next year searching DC sidewalks for a car parked on it,

How quickly you forget. We don't have to search, we just have to go to the NY Ave or King Street Metro stations. Station managers' cars are parked on sidewalks there (and likely at many other stations) with frequency.

Trolling too many threads to keep them straight, though?

by Catherine on Jul 15, 2010 4:05 pm • linkreport


The NY Ave thread isn't about a sidewalk. It isn't on a sidewalk which if you looked at the photos you would clearly see. Perhaps when it isn't blocked off by construction fencing and leads somewhere, then it may be turned into a sidewalk. Not now. Don't worry, I won't expect an apology.

@Teyo, Please point to where I said someone walking across the street outside the walk "deserves" to get hit. You obviously can't because it wasn't said.

No one "deserves" to get run over by anything. Even a drunk pedophile crack addict that stumbles into the road doesn't "deserve" to get hit. But yes, this is all about "personal" responsibility and accountability.

Yes, the kid or his parents were "more" responsible for this than the driver by all current accounts. No one here is saying the driver should get an award for hitting someone, but at the same time they are far less at fault than the parents/kid who either wilfully or obliviously made a risky decision to cross a street against the grain, in the most dangerous manner they could have.

Just breathing is risky and everything we do in life is only differentiated by the gradation of risk involved.

Getting out of bed in the morning? Not very risky

Jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. Terminally risky.

Choosing to cross the street without the aid of a signal or marked intersection and without looking for cars? Pretty risky.

The fact that he did something we all do (and realize its wrong while doing it) every day, yet died is a certain tragedy, but yes, the parents/kid took a risk and were held accountable for it in a pretty heinous way.

@Oboe, Again, thanks for proving without a doubt that you are the biggest troll this side of Fremont. Is english your first language? I wasn't threating anyone or living out any fantasy, although you seem to ignore the fact that numeous others on this thread did just that by threatening/wishing to key anything with a paint job.

I wasn't being threatened and I certainly didn't threaten anyone. If you think recounting a true story of someone in downtown DC keying a car and getting taken to task for it is a second hand threat, and ACTUALLY threatening to key a car isn't, then there is no hope for you my friend.

Enjoy the view under the bridge. Say hello to Seattle for me.

by Nookie on Jul 15, 2010 4:46 pm • linkreport


It's encouraging that you've changed your baseless assertion "That the family, kids and all ran out into the street mid-intersection, against the light/sign etc.." to one that they crossed the street "against the grain".

I'm not sure exactly what that's supposed to mean, but it's probably best that you've ducked out of falsifiability's harsh clime and into the realm of metaphor.

by oboe on Jul 15, 2010 5:16 pm • linkreport

I work in Geogetown, but south of M. I'd like to say that the pedestrians at Wisconsin and M have a bad habit of standing in the street (instead of on the sidewalk) while waiting for the walk signal. I do want them to be safe, but making the right turn from M onto Wisconsin southbound, I don't want to clip them.

by Aaron on Jul 15, 2010 5:43 pm • linkreport

Part of the dispute - and the ongoing pedantic use of the term "killed" to describe what was clearly an accident - is that some of the ideologues don't believe in the concept of negligence in accidents such as this.

Instead, they seem to want to apply the far higher standard of strict liability to any driver who is involved in an accident with a pedestrian or cyclist, regardless of who is determined to be at fault. The logic seems to be that because a driver is in a vehicle, the driver automatically must be held to a higher standard than a pedestrian or cyclist.

That's simply not the way the law works. If you want to make all drivers subject to strict liability, then you have to change the law.

Keep in mind that not even airline pilots - responsible for the lives of thousands of people each year - are held to such a standard.

And keep in mind that if such a standard were enacted, ALL driving would immediately become prohibitively expensive due to insurance policies: which means no buses, no streetcars, no taxis, nada.

Some of the radical ideologues would no doubt love this in concept, until they realized this means all transportation would quickly grind to a halt and people's standards of living would take quite a hit.

But, the bottom line is that no one actually knows exactly what happened in this accident - you have contradictory reports from people who may or may not have actually witnessed it. To use a young boy's death as a springboard for diatribes is rather ghoulish.

by Fritz on Jul 15, 2010 6:01 pm • linkreport

@Topher The boy that was struck by a woman driving her car near the intersection of Wisconsin and 33rd St. died yesterday.

Thanks for the sensitive and non-judgmental choice of words. It's a lot easier to read an article when it doesn't start off with 'Driver killed

by Lance on Jul 15, 2010 6:52 pm • linkreport

A step in the right direction:

by oboe on Jul 16, 2010 10:52 am • linkreport

To use a young boy's death as a springboard for diatribes is rather ghoulish.

I'm sure there were folks who found the "manufactured outrage" and "diatribes" over Emmit Till's murder "ghoulish" as well. It's only ghoulish if you think, as you apparently do, that these kind of incidents are acceptable.

For those who see danger in the universal speeding, stop-sign running, and total disregard for crosswalks among drivers in this city, this type of shrugging nonchalance is beyond ghoulish.

by oboe on Jul 16, 2010 11:02 am • linkreport

Oboe, I might suggest that your likening this incident to Emmett Till and his murder diminishes not only his memory, but also his murder's place and meaning within the civil rights movement.

by Jazzy on Jul 16, 2010 11:25 am • linkreport

Whatever. Someday you'll have to find a dictionary and look up "simile". This sniffing at the air in mock outrage is utterly transparent.

by oboe on Jul 16, 2010 11:43 am • linkreport

Wisconsin Ave is a terrible street even in Bethesda. I cross at a non signalized marked crosswalk and drivers very rarely yield the right of way. I have called the police several times and explained the situation and asked them to step up their enforcement of driving laws and the pedestrian right of way and their response has been to tell me to just not cross there.

by James on Jul 16, 2010 12:56 pm • linkreport

Oboe, whatever right back at you. I get similes, and I even have a dictionary.

Oh, and I agree that these deaths ARE outrageous.

by Jazzy on Jul 16, 2010 2:41 pm • linkreport

@oboe - You're comparing the intentional murder of a young boy by racists in the Deep South during the civil rights era to a car accident that led to the death of a boy at an intersection?

I'm sorry, but you've officially jumped the shark.

by Fritz on Jul 16, 2010 4:32 pm • linkreport

I think what oboe is responding to is, what seems to many readers, a very callous attitude towards the value of human life when it comes to life lost when a pedestrian is killed crossing a road. The attitude that the pedestrian "...wasn't in the crosswalk/wasn't following the rules", that is, "didn't know his place" because he had the audacity to cross when it was most convenient for him instead of waiting until it was most convenient for the driver; the pedestrian "didn't stay in his place", and everyone knows what can happen to pedestrians who don't stay in their place. Thus a tragedy but, "he should have known better because that's just the way it is". On the same continuum but of course not the extreme example of cruelty. The continuum of attitude that somehow the kid is responsible for his own death because he didn't follow the cultural rules, in this case that cars have the priority and drivers can not be expected to slow down, be cautious, be inconvenienced and that a pedestrian who inconveniences a driver "had it comin'".

by Bianchi on Jul 16, 2010 5:24 pm • linkreport

People in this town just dont realize that striped cross walk means you STOP when someone is in it.

by beatbox on Jul 16, 2010 6:49 pm • linkreport

@Bianchi - That's a valiant apologia of oboe. But his words speak for themselves.

by Fritz on Jul 16, 2010 8:03 pm • linkreport

I agree. Bianchi does a good job fleshing out the simile, but it's still not accurate, mostly because of intention. And, I am still not sure we can say that "we" or they or drivers possess a callous attitude toward pedestrians. There is really no comparing driver attitudes toward pedestrians (even some drivers' attitudes) to attitudes of those committed to killing another person.

by Jazzy on Jul 16, 2010 9:29 pm • linkreport

@nookie - YOU ARE MY HERO! Good luck trying to school those who think white paint will protect them from solid steel - my personal favorite are those that will NOT EVEN BOTHER TO MAKE EY CONTACT WITH DRIVERS before walking out into the street.

by Arlingtoned Out on Jul 17, 2010 12:36 pm • linkreport

why is it that bikers and peds always talk about driver's attitudes yet never focus on their own? Any plan based on the actions of others is DESTINED to fail. You can b**ch all you want about drivers doing this, that and the other - make all the laws you want. But at the end of the day, if you, the ped or biker, is the one stepping out into that crosswalk without taking your own personal responsibility to make eye contact, making sure the driver sees you, that the car is stopping, etc., then YOU are the one putting yourself at risk. And especially if you "know" how all drivers are unattentive, then why do you step in front of them without paying attention? I see it every day and it just floors me..........

by Arlingtoned Out on Jul 17, 2010 12:46 pm • linkreport


My experience has been than making eye contact with a driver (whether I'm walking, biking or driving) causes them to accelerate.

I'm also alarmed at the callousness of some commenters toward human life. Don't assume that it's the poor kid's fault until we have some facts.

by Matthias on Jul 19, 2010 5:12 pm • linkreport

Realistically, pedestrians and drivers are both humans, with limited attention spans and the tendency to make mistakes. Often due to making assumptions about how the other will behave in a given situation when anything could happen.

Also, insults aren't going to prevent the next incident from occurring. Good traffic planning might, though. But hey, blaming is fun and a good distraction from things you don't like(such as a traffic circle you don't want slowing your commute?).

by TXSteveW on Jul 19, 2010 7:11 pm • linkreport

Sorry to comment on a week-old thread, but this caught my eye -- a live video feed overlooking the crosswalk by Abbey Road Studions, the famous one from the Beatles' album cover:

Just watch for a few seconds and it's clear that the "stop for pedestrians" rule is taken a lot more seriously than it is here. Part of it might be that drivers are used to clueless tourists trying to recreate the famous photo, but I feel like there's more to it than that.

by dand on Jul 23, 2010 1:45 pm • linkreport

In general, the UK culture tends to have a very high regard for giving way at crosswalks. The highly visible nature of crosswalks both by markings, signing, and devices as well as the approach markings/signing all help further this effect.

Furthermore, most uncontrolled crossings only navigate across a single lane per direction -- which owing to the age of their roads these tend to be the most common -- eliminating the multithreat risk... and those that cross wider roads are often controlled by signals or have even more highly visible infrastructure & traffic calming in place.

There are a couple exceptions of uncontrolled multilane crossings that are more like those typical in the Americas, but those are definitely in the minority.

by Bossi on Jul 23, 2010 1:53 pm • linkreport

I was almost hit by a car this past Friday on a bright sunny day around 4:15 in the afternoon while crossing the street at the crosswalk at Wisconsin Ave. where it intersects near 35th St. This is right across from the Holiday Inn.

I tried to wait until the traffic was clear on both sides before crossing, but due to heavy rush hour traffic it never thinned. I needed to cross the street to catch my bus that was arriving. When I approached the crosswalk the cars on both sides of the intersection stopped for me; however, a driver in a car in one of the far lanes travelling down the hill had to abruptly put on brakes to avoid hitting me.

There was a very loud screeching noise that passersby heard as the car stopped. People who witnessed this incident were disgusted, shocked, and very concerned for my safety. I was extremely shaken by this. To make matters worse, instead of the driver waiting until I finished walking across the street, he sped up (apparently in disgust) and drove around me before I could even make it to the other side of the street.

I am very happy and grateful to be alive!

by DDB on Sep 26, 2010 10:54 am • linkreport

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