Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Racial Justice Applied to Traffic Enforcement

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Racial Justice Applied to Traffic Enforcement

An open letter to Alexandria’s City Council Members, the City’s Manager and Alexandria’s Chief of Police:

Subject: AFSS statement on racial justice applied to traffic enforcement

Alexandria Families for Safe Streets (AFSS) has many members who are concerned about safety on our streets. Unfortunately, some of our members have buried their 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 our 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 effective July 1, 2020 regarding drivers required 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 hands free law when it becomes effective Jan 1, 2021.

  • Shifting resources for responding to behavioral health and 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, and/or driver safety programming in lieu of fees.

Speed Management:

  • 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 be redirected to lowering speed limits and redesigning 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. Alexandria Families for Safe Streets (AFSS) confronts the epidemic of traffic violence by advocating for life-saving changes and providing support to those who have been impacted by crashes. Comprised of individuals who have been injured or lost loved ones to vehicle violence as well as many citizens who are concerned about their own safety on our streets as we walk or bike the roads of our community, AFSS was founded in 2017 and is part of a regional movement with other FSS chapters forming in the Northern Virginia counties of Arlington, Fairfax plus the city of Alexandria (NOVA FSS) and nationally, with other FSS chapters across the country.

Mike Doyle,

on behalf of the Board of Directors

Alexandria Families for Safe Streets