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The kids are released at 3:20 p.m. from Bruce-Monroe Elementary School in Park View. Students work off their energy by running around on playgrounds and sidewalks as they wait for their parents. Laughter fills the air. Then a blaring car horn drowns them out.
A woman pulling into a parking spot lays on her horn at a car parked at the corner of Warder Street NW and Otis Place NW.
“Get the fuck out of the way!” she yells before reversing into the spot and backing into the car behind her. She barely looks at the potential damage as she enters a house across the street from the elementary school.
Ingrid Miranda, whose 6- and 9-year-old sons go to Bruce-Monroe, says this type of aggressive behavior happens constantly at the school.
“I was just driving by and there’s a person behind me like, beep beep beep, trying to make me drive faster, but I couldn’t,” she says. “I’m not gonna run over the kids because somebody else wants me to go faster.”
Traffic fatalities in D.C. are already outpacing totals for previous years and have reached a 13-year high, according to city data. And recently, several young children have been injured or killed by drivers. In April, 4-year-old Zy’aire Joshua was struck and killed by a driver. Four more children were hit by drivers throughout D.C. in the same three-week period, including Allie Hart, who was killed after the driver of a city-contracted vehicle hit her while she was riding her bike in a crosswalk in Brookland.
Under pressure to address the string of tragic incidents and rising traffic fatalities, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced new “traffic safety enhancements” around D.C. schools. During a press conference Monday, Bowser said the pandemic is partly to blame for the uptick in reckless driving.
“We’re coming through COVID where there weren’t a lot of cars on the road … and people were driving so much faster. They’re taking too many chances,” she said Monday. ”These cars are thousands of pounds. When they get moving, they’re deadly weapons.”
Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee said chosen schools zones would receive excess monitoring three hours before school arrival time and three hours after dismissal. Officers will focus on “distracted driving, speeding, stop sign violations, and pedestrian violations within these areas.”
One of the streets being monitored is Warder Street NW, which includes Bruce-Monroe Elementary School. Rob Oandasan, whose 5-year-old son goes to the elementary school, says it’s a welcome change. He says he and his son were almost hit by a driver going against one way traffic while crossing the intersection of Warder and Otis NW. Oanvasan lives off New Hampshire Avenue NW, and he’s watched cars nearly hit pedestrians crossing the street. He says traffic fatalities, especially those involving children, are “unacceptable.”
“That shouldn’t be a thing that’s happening,” he says.
Bowser’s initiative assigns one police officer to each of the seven areas where the focused enforcement will take place around schools. A Metropolitan Police Department spokesperson did not respond to City Paper’s questions about the initiative. Miranda says the focused enforcement isn’t enough.
“I think there should be more police officers, more guards,” she says. ”They have to have somebody on each corner.”
Miranda adds, since the start of school, she and her sons have had three close calls with cars—and that lack of safety makes her “devastated, angry, and frustrated.”
“Sometimes my child walks home by himself,” she says. “I don’t want to get a call saying ‘Oh, you know, your child just got run over coming out of school.’ No parent wants that.”
—Bailey Vogt (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
This post has been updated to correct the spelling of Rob Oandasan. We regret the error.
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