Discover the heartbreaking story of a mother’s loss and the urgent need for speed limiters for repeat offenders to prevent future tragedies.

Articulated Insight – “News, Race and Culture in the Information Age”

Rally for safe streets in front of the Wilson Building in 2018 by Ted Eytan licensed under Creative Commons.

This post from Mother Dana Williams was first published by Greater Greater Washington.


With one phone call, my life as I had known it was shattered: my daughter Jamya had been in a tragic car crash. It would never be her calling again, I would never hear her voice again. The phone call was from my daughter’s number—but it wasn’t her.

She was driving east through the intersection of 14th and K Streets NW in the early morning of July 3, 2021, when a driver traveling north on 14th Street sped through the red light, collided with her car at full force without stopping, and then fled the scene.

As a mom, you look forward to seeing your child fulfill her dreams. Would she become the cardiologist she always talked about, like the doctors on the TV screen she devotedly watched on every episode of Grey’s Anatomy? She also had a very kind soul, often bringing home shopping bags full of gifts for her loved ones and generously offering her colleagues a ride home from work on her days off. Jamya was just 20 years old when her life abruptly ended due to someone else’s reckless driving. It should have been the beginning of her finding her way in this thing called life. Instead, family and friends commemorate her by sharing cherished memories and reflecting on the profound impact she continues to have on our lives.

Tragically, too many families in the Washington region—and across the country—know the pain of wondering who their loved one would be, what could have been. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can save lives like Jamya’s with technology that exists today to limit speeds and reduce reckless driving—if only Mayor Bowser and the DC Council fund it.

In April, fellow members of the DC chapter of Families for Safe Streets shared their heartache of losing a loved one or suffering a serious injury in a traffic crash at a Council hearing to urge they address reckless driving on our streets and rapidly implement proven technology—intelligent speed assistance or speed limiters—to stop the most dangerous drivers before they kill someone. Requiring ISA for repeat offenders is part of a new law that passed called the Strengthening Traffic Enforcement, Education, and Responsibility (STEER) Act.

Repeat offenders are an overall small number of drivers that are disproportionately responsible for carnage on our streets. When someone drives drunk, we put a device in their car that prevents them from doing that again. When someone speeds, repeatedly, we should use similar technology to stop that because speeding is as dangerous as driving drunk.

Intelligent speed assistance is proven to work. One study attributed a 37% decrease in traffic deaths to the use of active ISA technology and another projects it at 50% if mandated in all vehicles. Moreover, it does not deny anyone mobility; it just ensures they travel our streets safely. Not speeding is the most basic expectation we should have about sharing public space.

We know the human cost of government’s failure to act; it is a price too-high for anyone to pay.

While much in the STEER Act will save lives, this component is a common sense, easy to implement, low-cost provision that will make a dramatic impact on the preventable public health crisis of traffic violence plaguing our communities. Washington, DC, was the first in the nation to require this life-saving measure. As the nation’s capital, we should be a leader in traffic safety but instead DC has had its highest record of traffic deaths last year and there has not been a significant improvement in recent years.

Installing speed limiters in the vehicles of the most reckless drivers is an approach that is strongly recommended by the National Traffic Safety Board, the Road to Zero Coalition, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and others. District leaders cannot continue to allow the most reckless drivers to terrorize DC residents and visitors with impunity. We cannot wait a year or more before we make our roads safer.

Finding the funds

The Council’s Transportation and Environment committee heard our members’ calls to fund speed limiters for the most reckless drivers, and included funds for ISA in its budget recommendations. While the Mayor’s original budget funded none of the safety provisions in the STEER Act, DC Families for Safe Streets is grateful that the committee saw the relatively low cost of ISA–$1.2 million–as a valuable investment in protecting residents and visitors to the city. It’s now up to the full Council to include funding for ISA in next year’s budget.

We already have a cost-effective mechanism in place to require ignition interlock devices in the vehicles of drunk drivers. We need to do the same with repeat speeding drivers. If a budget is a reflection of one’s values, then Mayor Bowser’s budget reflects her outlook on safe streets, Vision Zero, transit and biking, and driver accountability: she does not value it. The Council can correct that.

Speed limiters installed in the vehicles of DC’s most reckless drivers could save someone else’s child, or spouse, or parent. It could save you. And in a city where traffic fatalities are up nearly 93% in the past five years, in a country where traffic fatalities are at near record highs, using every tool we can to save lives matters.


I am Dana Williams, a native of Washington DC, now residing in Beltsville MD. Professionally, I am a registered nurse specializing in research and virtual nursing services. Outside of work, I enjoy exploring various ethnic cuisines and traveling to different destinations when feasible.

Image from Rally for safe streets in front of the Wilson Building in 2018 by Ted Eytan licensed under Creative Commons.

DC FAMILIES FOR SAFE STREETS

Mission

DC Families for Safe Streets (DC-FSS) confronts traffic violence and its epidemic of tragic injuries and deaths. We advocate for life-saving changes and provide support to those affected by deadly crashes in our communities.

Overview

We seek to transform our grief by telling our personal stories of loss to effect change. We know, and have proof that people who walk, roll, bike, and drive can safely co-exist on our streets. We fight to eliminate all fatalities in traffic crashes because no death is acceptable. These are preventable “crashes” not accidents, and the reckless driving and dangerous street design that cause them have proven solutions.

As we know all too well, traffic crashes and injuries are sudden, violent, traumatic events. The grief and distress experienced is tremendous. We believe that no one should have to endure the loss and trauma alone. DC-FSS provides peer support and is developing assistance resources for those affected by the trauma of traffic violence.

We know that change is hard. For that reason, DC-FSS is committed to this formidable challenge. We want to ensure that all of our fellow Washingtonians can navigate their neighborhoods on foot, bicycle, or car without fear, and never have to endure the pain and suffering we have known.

#RoadSafety #SpeedLimiters #RepeatOffenders

DC FAMILIES FOR SAFE STREETS

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