Silverman “Reckless Driver” Bill Advances Vision Zero with Required Class for Dangerous Drivers

A bill introduced today by D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) would reduce dangerous driving incidents in the District by targeting routinely reckless drivers and requiring them to take a restorative-justice-focused course before returning to the road.

The “Reckless Driver Accountability Act of 2019” allows the District to boot or impound any car that has either three tickets for speeding by more than 25 miles per hour over the speed limit, or five tickets for speeding or running a red light. The law would apply to all vehicles located in the District with qualifying offenses, even if they are registered outside of the city.

Owners of these vehicles would be required to complete a new “reckless driver” class to either avoid the impoundment or retrieve their vehicle. The course would feature small group sessions, with an emphasis on reducing harmful driving behavior by helping drivers understand the impact of their actions. The course is based on a current restorative justice model in New York City, which was shown to reduce rates of rearrests for dangerous driving by about 40 percent in an early study.

“Some drivers are egregious repeat offenders—toting up to tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of speeding tickets,” said Silverman. “They are a very real threat to not only pedestrians and cyclists but other drivers on the road. We need to get them to slow down, and this program has done just that in New York.”

The bill focuses on two behaviors that are exceptionally dangerous: running red lights and speeding.  In September of this year, these behaviors accounted for almost 90 percent of all tickets issued in the District and lead to fatal crashes. There are approximately 30 to 40 pedestrian fatalities annually in the Greater Washington area due to drivers running red lights. Studies show that a pedestrian-involved crash at 40 miles per hour has a nearly 50 percent chance of being fatal. For pedestrian-involved crashes at 50 miles per hour, the chance of a fatality rises to 90 percent. At least two D.C. residents have died in the last month alone from crashes involving speeding.

Under the legislation, drivers would be notified in advance of their fifth ticket of the opportunity to take the course. The class would also be open to members of the public and taking the class proactively would allow drivers to avoid facing a car boot or impoundment.

The bill was supported by Councilmembers David Grosso (I-At Large), Anita Bonds (D-At Large), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4), and Charles Allen (D-Ward 6). It was referred to the Committee on Transportation and the Environment.