Dear PoPville – HELP!! I don’t understand the confusing automated traffic enforcement

Photo by PoPville flickr user Jen Morrissey

“Dear PoPville,

Please ask the ether to help me understand the new automated enforcement of the traffic laws.

Specifically, what will cause me to receive a ticket for pedestrian in the roadway and blocking the box? If a pedestrian is in the crosswalk on the other side of a four lane road and I cross when their foot steps onto the roadway, will I get a ticket? If the back of my car is in the intersection at the second the light turns red, will I get a ticket?

The silly ad campaign the District is running only informs you that they are ticketing for these offenses but doesn’t say what constitutes an offense. It seems almost as though the DC gov is trying to be vague so as to increase ticket revenue. “NEVER!” They’ll say.


49 Comment

  • This isn’t about safety, it’s about money.

  • My uninformed guess is that they will also have video that they can review, which is what they currently have with the red light cameras. The camera will flag your infraction – even if it’s only slight – but then they will check the video to really determine if you violated the spirit of the law (e.g. you nearly took out a group of pedestrians vs. the pedestrian stepped into the road too early on the opposite side of the street and was in no danger).

  • The simple rule I always follow is, if a pedestrian is in a cross walk, they have the right of way. Pause, and let them cross. In fact, pedestrians always have the right of way.

    • This! Just because the pedestrian is on the other side of the road does not mean you do not have to stop. Most people do not want to walk out into the middle of the road before traffic is both directions is either stopped or non-existent. Cars in DC blow through pedestrian cross-walks all the time (even when there are giant yellow signs instructing drivers to STOP.

      • You have to assert your rights or lose them, being careful about your timing, of course!

        • +1 I hate when my fellow pedestrians are too timid. Get out there and make cars stop for you (obviously within reason, but making eye contact with drivers helps).

          • really? I’ve almost had my toes crushed multiple times trying to “assert my dominance” over 2 ton machines…

  • Gridlock:

    Drivers should not enter an intersection or crosswalk, regardless of the signal phase, unless they can clear the far side of the intersection crosswalk before the signal turns red. The units use video analytics to detect if a vehicle has entered and failed to clear the intersection by the time the light is green for the opposing traffic or is obstructing the crosswalk for pedestrians crossing with the light.

    Drivers approaching a crosswalk at an intersection or other marked crosswalk in the same or adjacent lane as pedestrians or bicyclists should stop to allow them safe passage. The crosswalk units use video analytics and radar to determine if a vehicle has stopped when someone is in the crosswalk. Tickets will be issued when vehicles fail to stop.

  • Scrillin

    If the back of your car is in the intersection when it turns red, that is, in fact, a violation.

    The crosswalk cameras supposedly operate such that they only monitor your side of the roadway, so like normal, when the pedestrian gets past your half of the roadway, you can proceed.

    It’s very very difficult to get a ticket in this town, since the cameras only work about a third of the time anyways, and that’s assuming the camera is even on in the first place (see 14th St Northbound at K St NW for an example).

  • Hahah, I love this. Someone steps into a cross walk on one of DC’s numerous 4,6,8 lane city streets and the car that was too close to the cross walk to stop and crossed the crosswalk on the other side (32-64) feet away gets a ticket, while I continue to do what I want, blow nearly half my red lights (DDOT counted on the PA ave lanes) and otherwise ignore every traffic law I want and there is still no way to fine me. DC could give up collecting property tax if they got a camera to issue cyclist fines, but until then…jokes on you!

    • this sarcastic comment demonstrates the continued failure to understand that when a cyclist disobeys traffic signals, it is largely the cyclist at risk. The opposite is true for drivers. We hardly ever see incidents where a cyclist seriously injured or killed a pedestrian (although yes, it has happened on occasion)

      That said, both should obey the rules of the road, for everyone’s safety.

      • “Here lies Thankgodimabiker.
        Brother, son, friend, and biker.
        He had little concern for traffic rules or his own safety.
        He lived – and died – by his bicycle.”
        I guarantee the driver won’t show up to the funeral.

      • Right, until the family of the deceased files a wrongful death lawsuit.

        • if they’re in DC, they’ll lose.

          DC is a contributory negligence jurisdiction, meaning if the plaintiff is even the tiniest bit negligent they can’t get any money. Most states use contributory negligence, where the loss is apportioned based on who was more negligent (you crossed against the signal and a speeding drunk driver hit you? the jury might find you were 30% to blame and only award you 70% of the damages).

          There was just a court case in DC about whether someone who enters the crosswalk once the red hand is blinking is so negligent that they can’t collect at all if they’re hit.

          ps: I think this post is a troll. but also, if a cyclist is violating traffic laws, the police can stop and ticket them. It happens.

      • actually it happens ALL the time, and it makes me so angry when cyclists minimize the hurt they can do by blowing off traffic signals.

        my neighbor just had pins removed from her ankle after a year and a half of rehab following an incident where a cyclist crashed into her as she crossed the street in a legal crosswallk. if it was a car accident, insurance would pay. but nope, since it was cyclist that hit her, everything out of pocket came out of HER pocket.

        • Incidents where a cyclist “seriously injured or killed a pedestrian” do NOT happen “ALL the time”. Provide five links where this happened in 2013. Of course you can’t, you’d be lucky to find *one*. Unless your definition of “seriously injured” is “Ow, I’m sore for a few hours”, you’re exaggerating terribly.

          • Sorry to hear about your neighborhood, but that’s an isolated case, I assure you.

            And you should always get the ID and insurance info from anyone who hurts you in an accident, whether it’s in a car, on a bike, because they dropped something on you from a construction site, etc

          • neighbor*

      • Oh, right. So that makes it cool. Idiot cyclists, at their stupid risk, ride out in front of people and get killed. Then people have to deal with the gilt of all those idiot cyclist’s “risks”. Love it. You’re an idiot.

  • I for one cannot wait for all the “box blockers” to start raking in the fines. Will these devices change anything? Probably not but at least these jerks will pay for causing gridlock.

  • What I want to know, is how do they expect to enforce the rules with cyclists, when they don’t have identifying tags on their bikes?

  • I think we’ll all find out but there is some wiggle room in these machines. For instance, the speeding cameras only flag you as a violator if you’re, I believe, more than 5 MPH over the speed limit.

    As far as the need…..they’re obviously needed. I cross Reno Rd at a cross walk – sometimes with my baby in my arms – and watch 90% of the cars zip past me. The worst is when a car stops and I get halfway in to the street but the cars on the other side of the road continue to fly by. They see me, with a baby in my arms, but don’t stop. People who do that ought to be flayed, much less given a stupid ticket.

    • I was under the impression that camera-based speeding tickets aren’t issued unless a car is going *more* than 10 mph over the limit, which makes me feel like the new tickets won’t be any less sensible. Honestly, I’m glad that there will finally be actual repercussions for impatient, irresponsible drivers who block the box and almost mow down pedestrians at crosswalks.

  • It seems like you’re just another person who doesn’t REALLY want to know about what constitutes the regulation, but just wants to complain about the perception that the DC government is trying to increase ticket revenue for no reason.

    The law says that you must stop when a pedestrian is in a crosswalk. It does not say that you must stop only when the pedestrian is right in front of your car. Once the pedestrian is no longer in the crosswalk then you may proceed.

    I don’t understand your preoccupation with timing your driving based on how many legs the pedestrian has in the crosswalk. Is your time really that valuable? Here’s a pro tip: when you’re approaching a crosswalk, look out for pedestrians. If a pedestrian is looking like he or she needs to cross, yield to them. If they are already in the crosswalk but are unsure whether to proceed because you’re coming up on them, then yield to them.

    It’s that simple!

    • gotryit

      That’s really hard to do while texting. Is there another option?

    • It would appear you also dont know the regulation.

      Drivers only need to yield to pedestrians who are “IN” the cross walk. Appearing likely to cross does not give one the right of way.

      Additionally, pedestrians have the responsibility of only entering the crosswalk in front of a vehicle if the vehicle is able to stop without taking extraordinary measures.

      I.e. the game that pedestrians play of not leaving the curb until the car is near the crosswalk and expecting the car to yield is completely bogus.

      The idea of the law is that pedestrians are protected when they’re actually crossing the street before a car is present. But too often, pedestrians think that just standing on the curb and whining because no one is stopping is justified or that jumping out in front of a car and making them stop is appropriate. As a pedestrian, you wait until the coast is reasonably clear and then you step into the road, then if a car arrives, they are required to allow you exit the road before crossing over the crosswalk.

      This isnt difficult, but drivers and pedestrians screw it up all the time.

      • Anon X – perhaps you did not read my post carefully because I never said that drivers must yield the right of way when one appears likely to cross. In fact I said that a driver may cross when a pedestrian is not in a crosswalk.

        However, it is a good idea to let a pedestrian cross for many reasons — one of which you already stated which is that pedestrians could very well walk out into the crosswalk when cars are present. Another is that it’s a nice thing to do.

        I often cross at a crosswalk in Dupont where drivers can see me actually WITHIN the crosswalk and are traveling a low speed and yet still go through the crosswalk without stopping. It’s quite annoying, not to mention dangerous.

        • You’re wrong. Liar.

          • You might want to read more carely beofre you call your fellow anonymous person a liar.

            Anonymous 3:23: “If a pedestrian is looking like he or she needs to cross, yield to them.”


            Anon X: “Appearing likely to cross does not give one the right of way.”

            “Looking like he or she needs to cross” is pretty broadly worded and can include everything up to the point where a pedestrian has raised his or her leg to step in the crosswalk, but whose foot is not yet in the crosswalk. “Appearing likely to cross” can mean anything up to a pedestrian walking hurriedly towards the crosswalk, but is several feet away from it. There’s plenty of room to disagree between the two loosely worded phrases above. To jump to call someone a “liar” for responding that one loosely worded phrase is not an accurate paraphrase of the initial loosely worded phrase, i.e. this scenario, is absurd.

          • Wow, wylie! I assume 1) the ‘liar’ comment was trolling, and 2) you also missed the original posters point stopping for people who like they are trying to cross. The poster wasn’t talking about what the law requires at that point. The suggestion to stop for people looking like they are trying to cross is both courteous and errs on the side of safety.

  • I cross Mass and 20th NW pretty regularly on foot, and cars are always blocking the box to get into Dupont Circle. You’re in a city; with the exception of the highways and less built-up parts of the city, you’re just not going to get anywhere all that fast. So please stop for us and wait for the next light. You’ll lose two minutes, tops.

    • Right. At every, single light. Wow. That adds up quickly when you consider dc has lights on every block. Why don’t YOU wait a minute or two for me to drive by. I’m younger and faster.

      • Because we’re older and have more insurance.

      • If DC has lights on every block then that is all the more reason to stop and wait for the next one. Because we all know that the lights here are not timed very well, and if you happen to block the box to get through the intersection you’re just going to end up stopped at the next light anyway. And the next one, and the next one. So slow down, and have some patience !

  • I am fully in favor of electronic enforcement.

    For those who say “it’s all about revenue”.. it is and it isn’t.

    If drivers would obey the laws, there would be zero increased revenue. Drivers who do not follow the laws can pay the deserved fines.

    I am also in favor of ticketing pedestrians who cross against a light (especially turn arrows) and all cyclist infractions. As these cannot be done electronically, I would like the city to more actively perform sting operations on peds/cyclists at various intersections on a daily basis. And actually provide citations with fines, not warnings.

  • Uch, you hit the nail on the head… this has NOTHING to do with traffic enforcement and EVERYTHING to do with revenue. Just give up, you can’t win here. You will get ticketed you will pay fines, just another example of DC taking advantage of its citizens.

    will someone PLEASE develop a political campaign around this subject it’s completely ABUSIVE!


    • If you want to avoid speed camera tickets then slow down. Stay about 5 over the limit and you’ll never get another ticket.

  • If you drive through DC at roughly 25 miles an hour, you’ll make most of the lights and be able to stop safely in most circumstances. Faster drivers are just getting to the next red light quicker.

    Ditto for waiting for a pedestrian in a crosswalk or hanging out behind the crosswalk because the other side of the intersection is bottled up with cars (i.e. not blocking the box). Just wait, you’ll get there. Speeding is just getting to the next red light faster and wasting gas.

    • not true for every route in every direction. in fact, so not true, that its an unhelpful statement.
      but, what is true is that if you drive 25 you’ll not be breaking the law.

  • It’s easy, when you’re stopped in the middle of the crossing path because you thought you could get further up the road by running a yellow/red light- and now I can’t cross on my green because you’re sitting there without walking around your car- BAM!!! You get a ticket. And I am living for it.

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