Your Views: Racial justice in traffic enforcement

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Your Views: Racial justice in traffic enforcement
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To the editor:

Alexandria Families for Safe Streets has many members who are concerned about safety on our streets. Some members have buried siblings, parents and spouses or suffered serious injuries in traffic crashes across the City of Alexandria. We pour our pain into purpose and confront the epidemic of traffic violence to prevent others from suffering.

As we advocate for change on Virginia roadways, we also recognize that institutional racism all too often frequents our streets. Racial injustice impacts which communities receive traffic safety improvements and which drivers police choose to stop.

To address these inequities and improve safety on our streets, we advocate for:

– Making engineering changes in the roadways the first line of defense against speeding and traffic violations, as they are the most effective.

– Using automated enforcement technology such as speeding, failure to yield, red light and stop sign cameras as the second line of defense. When employed properly, cameras are less likely to discriminate based on what a driver looks like, and these tools are typically more cost efficient than officer hours on traffic duty. Cameras must be placed in locations with historically frequent crashes and engineering confirmed high crash risk areas.

– Equitably enforcing the new Virginia State traffic laws that require drivers to stop at crosswalks if pedestrians are in the crosswalk, place automatic speed cameras around schools and construction sites, implement the new vulnerable road user law and apply indiscriminately without bias the new handsfree law when it becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2021.

– Shifting resources for responding to behavioral health or drug overdose emergencies from the police to trained healthcare professionals.

It is essential that these programs and laws be fairly administered with modest fees, sliding scale fees or driver safety programming in lieu of fees.

We urge Alexandria to prioritize speed management as the key tenet to Vision Zero and a safe systems approach because it is more effective at deterring dangerous driving than enforcement and less likely to be a tool for racial injustice.

Allocate a larger portion of the city’s funds to lowering speed limits and re- designing roadways, with a particular focus on and in partnership with communities of color which may not have received these life-saving measures.

Silence could be interpreted as acquiescing to vehicle violence and racial inequities. We are speaking out and advocating for action.

-Mike Doyle, on behalf of AFSS board of directors

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