The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

High school english teacher Melissa Fisanich helps her student with an upcoming assignment.
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From swastikas found in Jewish spaces, to hate speech on the internet, Jewish people are constantly being reminded of the hatred and horror of...

Safe Streets Act: right idea, wrong solution

Ari Kittrie
The intersection at Nicholson Lane, Huff Court, and Citadel Avenue already has a No Turn on Red sign, which the Safe Streets Act is proposing to add more of.

It takes 25 minutes for me to commute from my house in Bethesda to CESJDS every morning. Already, the roads are quite congested and teeming with cars. Montgomery County’s new Safe Streets Act will make the roads even more jam-packed and I fear that my commute will only become longer.

One month ago, on Sept. 19, the Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to pass the Safe Streets Act. The law, which will prohibit right turns on red in certain intersections and expand crosswalk times, is a reaction to a recent uptick in pedestrian deaths in collisions. While the law is well intended, it will negatively affect Montgomery County drivers.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), crashes involving right turns on red at intersections, which this bill targets, only represent 0.4 percent of all signalized intersection crashes. Additionally, a 2002 report by San Francisco traffic engineers reported that in San Francisco, from 1994 to 1998, there were a total of 44 reported collisions caused by right turns on red out of a total of 9764 intersection collisions (0.45 percent). 

Both of these statistics show that Montgomery County’s choice of banning right turns on red at some intersections is misguided because of the miniscule chance of a crash happening due to a right turn on red.

This change, as well as the increased crosswalk times in the Safe Streets Act, will also lead to longer wait times for cars. This longer wait time will generate congestion and traffic, which will cause longer commute times for drivers in Montgomery County.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metropolitan area already has an average commuting time of 34.4 minutes, which is the third longest commute time in the United States. These new hurdles, which will slow down drivers, will only exacerbate the already lengthy commuting time for drivers across the county.

Furthermore, the Safe Streets Act will lead to an increased amount of idling that will happen as a result of the longer wait times for cars. Drivers will have to waste gas waiting at red lights, which will not only affect Montgomery County drivers’ pocketbooks, but will also harm the environment. 

What’s especially ironic about this is that Maryland is on a campaign to stop idling, even so far as having a law that makes idling for more than five minutes a fineable offense. Thus, the Safe Streets Act is essentially contradicting Maryland’s campaign by forcing drivers to idle for longer periods of time than before.

The Safe Streets Act is a well meaning law, but there is actually a better solution: improved engineering of cars. One example of this is Automated Emergency Braking (AEB). AEB is a relatively new system in which a vehicle uses a camera, radar or sensors to detect the potential for a collision with an object or person and then stops when it does. This would eliminate the possibility of most crashes both generally and especially when turning right on red because the car would be able to stop the car earlier than a person would.

Already, NHTSA proposed requiring AEB for new vehicles in May 2023. Montgomery County could help to galvanize the U.S. Government to require AEB for new vehicles, incentivizing Maryland to encourage drivers to buy cars with AEB installed through tax incentives, or encourage Montgomery County citizens to buy cars with AEB installed.Maryland has the right idea in working to eliminate crashes in Montgomery County. According to the Crash Data Dashboard created by the Maryland Department of Transportation, 44 fatal crashes happened in Montgomery County in 2022. However, the Safe Streets Act is not the right solution for this problem and it will instead force cars to idle for longer periods of time which will negatively affect the environment and drivers’ commute times. Instead, Montgomery County should focus on encouraging the federal and state governments to support improved equipment for cars, such as Automatic Emergency Braking, and motivating drivers to buy cars with those improvements.

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About the Contributor
Ari Kittrie, Managing Editor, Web
Being a Reporter and Opinion Editor during the last few years, Ari is ready to take on the position of Managing Editor. His experience includes being an Election Judge for the Montgomery County Board of Elections and volunteering for various politicians from all levels of government. Additionally, Ari enjoys in his free time wrestling, volleyball, and sometimes cooking.  

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