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Traffic Safety

In today's busy world, it's vital to prioritize traffic safety for runners, walkers, pedestrians, and cyclists. By following essential guidelines and remaining vigilant, we can reduce the risk of accidents and ensure a safer experience on the roads. In this guide, we will explore key traffic safety tips to help you navigate with confidence and protect yourself and others.

Safety Tips for Runners and Walkers

Before you leave...

  • Plan your outing. Always tell a friend or family member where you are going and when you’ll return.
  • If exercising while out of town, check with the hotel staff or concierge to find safe routes for exercise. Get a map and study the route so that you are familiar with it. Write down the hotel address and bring it with you.
  • Carry a cell phone with you. Consider sharing your phone’s location with a trusted friend or family member.
  • Carry an ID. If you don’t have a place to carry an ID, write your name, phone number, and blood type on the inside of your athletic shoe. If you have a phone with “Medical ID” capabilities, consider making that accessible from the lock screen.
  • Wear reflective material so motorists can see you more easily. If you’re exercising at night, consider a vest with reflective tape.

On the road…

  • Stay alert at all time. Cyclists should not wear headphones. If runners/walkers wear headphones, turn the volume down low enough that you can hear cars or someone approaching you.
  • Run or walk with a partner or a dog.
  • Use signaled crosswalks when possible.
  • Exercise in familiar areas. Know which businesses or stores are open. If you feel you’re being followed, change direction and head for open stores. Always know the name of the street you’re on so that, if you need to call 911, you can give the call-taker your correct location.
  • Vary your route. That way, a potential attacker won’t get to know your routine.
  • Avoid unpopulated areas, deserted streets, and overgrown trails. Stay in well-lit areas.
  • Run against traffic so you can observe approaching cars.
  • Don’t respond to verbal harassment. Use discretion in acknowledging strangers at all. If someone makes you uncomfortable, call 911.
  • Be careful if anyone in a car asks you for directions. Keep at least a full arm’s length away from the car.
  • Have your key ready before you reach your house.



Safety Tips for Bicyclists

When travelling on city streets, cyclists should follow the same rules of the road as motorized vehicles. This means stopping at stop signs; obeying traffic signals and lane markings; and using hand signals to let others know your intention to stop or turn.

Additionally, bicyclists should…

  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Don’t wear headphones; you need to be able to hear if a car is approaching.
  • Slow down and check for oncoming traffic before entering any street or intersection.
  • Do your best to anticipate hazards and adjust your position in traffic accordingly.
  • Be predictable: ride with the flow of traffic, on the right, and in a straight line – not in and out of parked cars on the side of the street.
  • Wear a helmet! All children under the age of 16 are required to wear a helmet while biking, skateboarding, sledding, or riding a scooter, coaster, or toy vehicle in the District of Columbia! Parents can receive a fine for not ensuring their child has a helmet on while participating in these activities. Bicyclists of all ages are strongly encouraged to wear a helmet.
  • Carry an ID. If you don’t have a place to carry an ID, write your name, phone number, and blood type on the inside of your athletic shoe. If you have a phone with “Medical ID” capabilities, consider making that accessible from the lock screen.
  • Be mindful of your visibility, especially when biking during rush hour or later. Wear reflective material so motorists can see you more easily. Legally, cyclists must have a front white light and red rear reflector and/or rear red light.
  • Carry a cell phone with you. Consider sharing your phone’s location with a trusted friend or family member.
  • Stay visible by riding where drivers are looking (i.e. do not pass on the right). Don’t always expect drivers to see you.

Get more Smart Bicycling Tips from Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA).

Get cycling tips and hand signals from the Street Smart Campaign


Safety Tips for Drivers

Drivers are reminded to turn on vehicle headlights at dusk and be vigilant in looking out for cyclists and pedestrians. Additionally, drivers should:

  • Stop for pedestrians at crosswalks.
  • Slow down and obey the posted speed limit.
  • Yield to pedestrians and cyclists when turning.
  • Look before opening your door.
  • Be careful when passing stopped vehicles.
  • Allow three feet when passing bicyclists.


Parking and Traffic Violations

The District of Columbia is a recognized leader in traffic safety. It has implemented model laws and experienced a dramatic decrease in traffic fatalities in the past several years. Willful disregard for existing laws – including speeding and pedestrian violations – are the most frequent factors in traffic fatalities.

The following information includes details on the civil fines for certain parking, traffic and other violations in the District of Columbia.

NOTE: These documents may not be used as legal authority. The information is provided for general guidance only. Given the changing nature of laws and regulations, there may be omissions or inaccuracies contained in this document.

While every effort has been made to provide accurate information there is no warranty, expressed or implied, as to the accuracy, reliability or compliance of this document.


Click It or Ticket

The District has one of the strongest, most comprehensive seat belt laws in the nation. After the law was enacted in 1997, seat belt use increased 24 percent. Injuries were prevented. Lives were saved.

It takes a few seconds to fasten a seat belt. It's so simple. Yet it can be the most significant action you can take to protect your life and those you care about.

Buckling up dramatically increases your chance of surviving a crash. And it's your best weapon against a drunk, tired, or aggressive driver.

Unlike many other states, District law allows police to stop a vehicle solely because its drivers and passengers are not properly buckled up.

In addition, the Metropolitan Police Department is an active participant in the National Safety Council's Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign. Each spring and fall, the Department participates in the annual Operation ABC (America Buckles-up Children) Mobilizations - nationwide crackdowns on drivers who are not buckled up or who do not properly secure their child passengers.

$50 Fine & 2 Points: That's the penalty for not having your seat belt properly buckled at all times—for drivers and all passengers, in front and back seats—with few exceptions. Drivers are responsible for seat belt compliance for all passengers.

Drivers who fail to properly secure their child passengers face even stiffer penalties: a $75 fine and 2 points for a first offense, and a $150 fine for fourth and subsequent offenses. DC law now requires that all children under the age of 8 be properly seated in an infant, toddler or booster seat, and that 8- to 16-year-olds be secured with a safety belt.

Why It's So Important

  • Traffic crashes are a leading cause of death in the US—someone is killed every 13 minutes and injured every 9 seconds.
  • Wearing seat belts is the most effective way of cutting the death toll. Seat belts saved over 11,000 Americans in 2000.
  • Over half of the people killed in traffic crashes in 2000 were not wearing seat belts.
  • We all pay for those not wearing seat belts—in higher taxes, health care and insurance costs.

No Excuses—Zero Tolerance

"It doesn't fit. It's uncomfortable." Readjust it, see your dealer for an extender, or purchase one of any number of seat belt aids available.

"But I'm a good driver." You may be, but others aren't. Seat belts protect everyone.

"I was going to put it on." Buckle up - every trip, every time.



ATVs, Dirt Bikes, and Other Small Vehicles

What can I ride on city streets?

It’s okay to ride mopeds, motorized bicycles, and motorcycles on the street, but not on city sidewalks. Note that non-motorized bicycles and Segways are permitted to be ridden on the sidewalk in neighborhoods outside the Central Business District or any area specifically prohibited by the Major. No matter what or where you ride, obey traffic and safety laws and yield to pedestrians.

It is against the law to ride dirt bikes and ATVs on DC’s streets.

Minibikes, dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles, and other motorized bikes and multi-wheeled vehicles pose a danger to pedestrians and other motorists. “Bonu$ to Phone Us: Off Road” is a program that offers DC residents the ability to report illegal ATV/dirt bike use in exchange for a reward. If you see — or know the identity of — someone riding a dirt bike or ATV recklessly on DC streets, call or text the police. If your tip leads to a successful confiscation and identification of the driver/operator of the vehicle, you will be eligible for a reward of $250. Call (202) 727-9099 or text 50411 with your information. Help us keep our city safe.

How are ATVs and Dirt bikes being used in the District of Columbia?

Riders of ATVs and dirt bikes do all kinds of tricks such as wheelies and riding on the sidewalks. ATVs and dirt bikes are illegal to ride on public streets in the District of Columbia, but MPD’s chase policy prohibits officers from pursuing the vehicles. In fact, those familiar with the problem say that some riders come from other areas on stolen dirt bikes and ATVs because DC is known for its no chase policy.

What Dangers Do ATVs and Dirt Bikes Pose?

A 25-year-old DC woman was with her 23-year-old cousin and a group of others as they crossed Alabama Avenue, SE, around 8 pm. The pedestrians had the right of way. A moment later, two dirt bikes came speeding toward the group. At least one of them popped a wheelie. The woman soon realized her younger cousin had never made it to the curb along with the rest of the group. The rider of the dirt bike popped a wheelie and caught the younger cousin’s shirt in the handlebars of the bike. The impact threw the young woman into the path of an oncoming vehicle, partially pinning her under the tires. The woman suffered extensive injuries.