CM At Large Christina Henderson Slams City Traffic Enforcement at ANC6B Committee

Council Member At Large Christina Henderson talked about traffic and parking enforcement at last night’s ANC6B Transporttion Committee, chaired by Commissioner Matt LaFortune.

CM At Large Christina Henderson Slams City Traffic Enforcement at ANC6B Committee

by Larry Janezich

Posted April 4, 2023

“We have gotten to a point unless you destroy property or kill someone or get caught parking on a street long enough, there is no enforcement – unless you do something so egregious that MPD pulls you over.” 

In a rare appearance of a Council Member before an ANC Standing Committee, CM At Large Christina Henderson came before ANC6B’s Transportation Committee last night to talk about traffic enforcement. 

She opened her presentation noting that the Automated Traffic Effectiveness Amendment Act (ATE) she introduced last year had gone nowhere.  She said she has reintroduced the ATE Act this year but “the votes are not there” and she is trying to refine it: “That’s where we are.”

The ATE would:

  • allow traffic cameras to issue points on driver’s licenses – currently the sole province of MPD
  • require reporting driving records of drivers who accumulate five moving violations to insurance companies
  • require reckless drivers to take “safe driving” lessons

The bill introduced last year was co-sponsored by Charles Allen, Brianne K. Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, and Brooke Pinto.

Henderson alluded to another bill introduced last year by then-CM At Large Elissa Silverman – the Reckless Driver Accountability Act of 2022 – making it easier to boot or impound vehicles with a large number of parking or moving violations.  It also went nowhere.  Henderson cited concerns about overburdening those with lower income as an impediment to passage of both bills by the city council. 

The brief presentation was followed by a Q&A period.

Can the city take a more proactive approach for towing?

Henderson:  “We have a list of vehicles which are boot-eligible … we have addresses.  DPW is reluctant to be more proactive because of a lack of resources,” with only six towing teams on the streets.  She said she had talked to DPW about doing overnight towing funded with overtime pay and whether having a crew working overnight would produce significant results.  A resident member attendee raised concerns about the safety of a towing team conducting overnight towing.

Have you considered citizen reporting and rewarding citizens with a percentage of the fine? 

Henderson:  “That has come up in conversations with bike groups regarding idling vehicles in bike lanes.  The issue is the same as with parking tickets.  If we can’t force the violator to pay the ticket, so what’s the point?   You get caught up in the idea of overburdening a certain class of people.  We have gotten to a point unless you destroy property or kill someone or get caught parking on a street long enough, there is no enforcement – unless you do something so egregious that MPD pulls you over.”

What is the status of Rock Creek Parkway case where three people were killed by a driver with 44 violation and unpaid $12000 in fines?  At what point is interest in enforcement triggered?

Henderson:  “Right now our system isn’t designed in that proactive way.  Right now visual observation of a vehicle on the street is what triggers enforcement.  It is no one’s job to actively search for the most egregious vehicles ticketed in term of speeding.” 

What’s the status of Vision Zero in light of the recent auditor’s report seeming to indicate there’s a program, but no program? 

Henderson:  “I’m meeting with the Director of DDOT to try to understand what the commitment of that agency is.  I appreciate that the ANC is considering a resolution on this because I feel like my colleagues need to hear enforcement is important to them as part of the overall Vision Zero goals, and right now, we don’t have that.”  She said that because of how we bifurcated the system it makes it difficult to hold a single agency accountable for Vision Zero – because they would say Vision Zero responsibilities cover three agencies.

What will nudge people to change their behavior?

Henderson:  “Infrastructure is one,” Henderson said, adding “I’m on ‘Team Infrastructure.”  She supports using “concrete and steel” infrastructure (street diets, bollards, bump outs, speed bumps) to slow traffic in support of Vision Zero goals.  But, she added, “…we should be clear not everybody on the council is onboard with infrastructure changes to improve safety.  Part of that is a legacy about how to move people in and out of downtown in the fastest way possible and sometimes at expense of public safety of the people who live here.  We have to change that paradigm.  And I’m not sure were prepared to do that.  Even in conversations about the ATE bill – in terms of the notification of insurance companies – folks were claiming I was anti-driver.  I have a car but my husband and kids bike and they commute and I want them to be safe.  I walk my kid to school.  Across Georgia Avenue and I want her to be safe.  And I think we can do both.  But every change we make toward Vision Zero, people assume that it’s anti-vehicle as opposed to safety concerns that undergird it. She added, “There are other things.  We’re still trying to figure that part out.  We’re open to suggestions.”

Afterward, the Committee unanimously supported a motion to forward a Traffic Enforcement Resolution to the full ANC for consideration at its next meeting on April 11.

The resolution urges the DC City Council to take up legislation to improve traffic enforcement in the DC including, but not limited to:

  • tying nonfinancial penalties to traffic violations such as points on a driver’s license,
  • reporting on traffic violations to insurance companies,
  • requiring remedial lessons for drivers accruing a substantial number of violations prior to renewal of a driver’s license and registration.  The measure also:
  • urges the city administration to reconvene the Fake Temp Tag Task Force and make public recommendations for further action to reduce the number of fake tags in DC and
  • urges the Mayor to begin negotiations with MD and VA on a regional reciprocity agreement to hold unsafe drivers accountable regardless of where they commit traffic violations.


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5 responses to “CM At Large Christina Henderson Slams City Traffic Enforcement at ANC6B Committee

  1. Josh

    Thank you Councilmember Henderson for your advocacy. As a longtime DC resident, it’s incredibly frustrating and maddening to see so little attention and resources to what is a key public health and safety and quality of life issue. The lack of action and funding on this is indefensible.

  2. Theresa Maxwell

    Thank you, Christina – we need this!

  3. W

    lack of reciprocity remains the biggest head scratcher. I don’t drive with impunity in VA or MD and observe rules of road everywhere I drive. VA and MD drivers should do the same

  4. Jen

    If laws are optional then they aren’t laws. If the Council is concerned how enforcement of a law would affect a group of people and won’t enforce it then they need to remove the law off the books. If there is no rationale to having people register their cars and get real tags then get rid of the laws instead of ignoring these crimes. If there is no rationale to getting people to stop speeding and accrue points or have it affect them in any way, then remove the laws off the books. The Council can’t have it both ways.

  5. muskellunge

    I appreciate CM perspective, but some of her proposals are unconstitutional. Such as assigning points to drivers from automated enforcement tickets — you must see who is driving to assign the points.
    One thing that seems to be missing: the fastest, cheapest way to enforce traffic laws is a cop on patrol. Costs a fraction of an infrastructure project and can be moved as needed within a few minutes. The response from the bad drivers is instant, and the points are assigned.