Washington, D.C. to begin sending targeted messages to high-risk drivers

Traffic Safety Pulse News

The Washington, D.C. government plans to launch a personalized messaging program next month that will send mailers and text messages to Washington-area motorists with a history of traffic violations and crashes. The initiative, led by the D.C. Department of Transportation and The Lab @ D.C., will message drivers whom the city deems more likely to be involved in a crash, warning them to follow speed limits and pay attention to traffic signs.

The program is the city’s latest effort to tackle a rise in deadly traffic crashes that has long perplexed D.C. leaders. It comes after previous attempts to increase road safety — such as heftier fines for traffic violators, more restrictions on turns and lower speed limits — did little to slow the rate of crashes and deaths on city streets. Under the new program, the city developed a list of 100,000 high-risk drivers, which District officials say will be divided into smaller groups — some receiving both a mailer and text, some being contacted using only one method, and others not being contacted at all. After the first round of messaging, expected to start in as soon as two weeks, drivers can opt out of future messages.

Person using navigation app on their phone while driving.

Sam Quinney, director at The Lab @ D.C., which is part of the D.C. government, said project coordinators hope the messages will raise awareness among risky drivers about previous traffic violations while helping them to make safer decisions over time.

“The goal is to create awareness, regardless of whether or not anybody has signed off for specific alerts,” he said.

The program is part of Vision Zero D.C., an initiative that pledged eight years ago to eliminate city traffic deaths by 2024. Officials have since said that original goal was ambitious and expect to release a revised plan by next year. Read more about the pilot program here.