So now, at least according to Jake Tapper (“Death Valley,” 10/9), we have another excuse for the reckless driving habits of local commuters: the magical flourishes of Rock Creek Park. Forget about the statistics he quotes regarding the astronomical percentage of drivers (85) whose speed exceeds the posted speed limits by at least 10 mph or the Grand Prix-style driving that is a daily fixture on Rock Creek Parkway. Let’s just call every crash an “accident,” as Tapper does, and that way no one’s really to blame; the magic of the park made me do it. What next? An article identifying Skyline Drive as the most treacherous stretch of road in Virginia because of its scenic appeal?

Let’s face it, any time you have large numbers of cars greatly exceeding the speed limit, tailgating, and switching lanes willy nilly, there’s a decent likelihood that some will collide with others. But these are preventable occurrences, not accidents (events that occur by chance). Yes, there are crashes caused by bizarre weather or other natural phenomena, such as those cited by Tapper, that could truly be labeled accidents, but the overwhelming majority of car crashes do not fit that definition.

And this is not merely a game of semantics. Traffic safety experts point out the psychological effect of the word “accident”: it implies that crashes—like shit on the bumper sticker—just happen, that they’re unavoidable “acts of God,” so there’s nothing we can do to prevent them. Wrong! We can greatly reduce the number of crashes with saner, safer driving habits. Our roads and highways are not the place to make up for time lost elsewhere during the day. Are the few minutes gained by barreling through Rock Creek Park—I’ve even had drivers pass me on Beach Drive and Broad Branch—worth the pain and sorrow, not to mention the expense, that could result from a crash?

One other thought on Tapper’s article: While the daily changing of the guard at each end of Rock Creek Parkway might make little sense, trying to keep the parkway two-way during rush hour would be an unbelievable nightmare unless an underpass or overpass were built where Beach Drive meets the parkway. Otherwise, especially in the afternoon rush hour, traffic trying to enter the parkway from Beach Drive would have no chance of safely doing so. Already on weekends and during other non-rush-hour periods, southbound traffic on Beach Drive is often backed up beyond the zoo tunnel. An underpass or overpass, though costly, would alleviate that problem and could be built with minimal loss of green space.

Shepherd Park

via the Internet