Is D.C. Turning Into a "Nanny State"?:
The Washington Post has an interesting article on DC local law and enforcement strategies, as well as popular objection to them:
  A parking ticket on your windshield used to be as far as the stubby arm of District law would reach. But now, drivers are ticketed by robot cameras, holding a cell phone when driving is verboten and no one is allowed to have more than one drink at a time at city bars. Last week, D.C. police were handing out $10 tickets for jaywalking.
  It makes some people wonder whether the District is turning into a Big Brother "nanny state." With these official efforts to make urban life safer, is there danger of Washington losing some of its buzz and the organic street life that makes a city a city?
David Hecht (mail):
*Snort* They were handing out tickets for jaywalking a quarter-century ago: I got one when I was down here having an interview in 1981.

At the time I was living in New York, and didn't have a driver's license: when the cop asked me for "my license", I didn't understand at first what he meant: I burst out laughing and asked him if people in DC needed pedestrian licenses.
7.4.2005 1:51am
Matthew Sheffield (mail) (www):
Actually, DC is turning into more of a money-grubbing state than anything else. It's all part and parcel of the new Tony Williams administration. Things are more upscale in town now, but you still have to keep your hand on your wallet.
7.4.2005 2:28am
M (mail):
Seattle has been giving out jaywalking tickets (mostly to surprised tourists) for years. I don't know that it's a good idea, but I don't know that it makes a place a "nanny state", either. If the law is a bad idea, get rid of it. But, if it's good to have, why not enforce it? (I'd rather see speed limit laws more strictly enforced, too.)
[you know, the 'registered user' think is really quite a pain in the ass. What's the value in it?]
7.4.2005 2:39am
Sarah (mail) (www):
They were warning us about jaywalking tickets in DC when I went for my internship at the USIA in 1999. All the "veteran" interns were very diligent in warning me separately, which made (and makes) me utterly paranoid about jaywalking whenever I'm in the District.
7.4.2005 3:04am
TomH (mail):
I can confirm the jaywalking report. They were handing out such tickets outside my office on 15th and K just last week. Watch out!
7.4.2005 3:04am
You believe in speeding laws do you? I've never been able to get my head around the idea of a crime without a victim. Sometimes the victim is "an officer of the state" but most traffic laws are victimless.

Exactly why should it be a moral quandry to run a red-light on a deserted road to rush your dying wife to the hospital? The idea that the law regulates that conduct boggles my mind.

I have suspicion that no one ever thought critically about whether traffic laws were appropriate--they just are as a matter of cultural presumption.
7.4.2005 3:11am
D.C. never had any "buzz" or "Organic Street Light" of which to speak. It's quite the cultural wasteland, so enamored with its own self importance that it fails to realize that just about every other city on the Eastern Seaboard -- including Baltimore -- outranks it. I actually got a speeding ticket from a radar camera on 395, which was for a rate of speed no human policeman would ever have enforced. In Chicago you can jaywalk right in front of cop cars.
7.4.2005 4:07am
Bob B. (www):
No comment on the jaywalking, as I do it all the time and it's at my own risk. The only person that is going to get injured or killed is me.

For running stoplights, someone else is likely to get killed and thus a question of public policy. It is a sanction to deter people from doing it again, rather than say sactioning them after they haved killed someone while running a red light. It doesn't sit too well with the public. Note some of the opinions gathering in Northern Virginia after the expiration of the stoplight cameras. Those who drive there are happy that it has stopped. Those who live there however are worried again since they probably don't like seeing the horrific accidents outside their homes (or being involved in one for that matter).

And as for you who think your just as alert when talking on your phone and driving, feel free to check out the report done by John Hopkins University, and think again before you say "It doesn't apply to me, I know how to drive and talk on the phone at the same time"
7.4.2005 6:27am
Andy (mail) (www):
I seem to recall jaywalking tickets as one of those late-Giuliani era (pre-9/11) ideas as how to generate more revenue for NYC's coffers.

The city chose a few particular intersections (such as 6th Avenue and 47th Street next to Radio City Music Hall) and had police officers stationed to give out tickets to pedestrians who dared cross against the traffic lights.

The whole concept quickly became so unpopular (and ineffective at providing any noticable increase to either safety or revenue collection) that it was abandoned.

Out of curiosity, does DC ban smoking in all public buildings (bars, restaurants, Nats games, etc.)? If not, just wait and see what's next...

7.4.2005 10:13am
Gary Leff (mail) (www):
DC even tickets people for throwing trash in trashcans:
Man fined for throwing Fedex airbill into public trash.
7.4.2005 11:06am
CharleyCarp (mail):
Bob B., I just hope that the car swerving to avoid you doesn't hit me. Or that I'm not rear-ended when I stop to avoid hitting you.
7.4.2005 12:23pm
Cathy (mail) (www):
When I was in DC last summer I started jaywalking BECAUSE DC had become a nanny-state. In fact, I wouldn't even call it that. I'd call it a police-state. For people who haven't visited in a while, they might not recognize it anymore, with its landscape of concrete barriers strewn about everywhere. Remember when you could go in and out of the Smithsonian museum whenever you wanted? You can't do THAT anymore. No, now you must queue endlessly to pass through the metal detectors and get your bags searched. The energy of the city had long since been disrupted by these public demonstrations of civic fear, and it was heartbreaking. To say nothing of personal liberty-destroying.

So yeah, I jaywalked, on purpose, as a form of civil disobedience in protest of what the city had become. It was the least I thought I could do.
7.4.2005 1:13pm
Amanda (mail) (www):
Yeah, I saw that article and cursed at the paper. It was pre-coffee.

The crackdown seems to have not yet reached Rosslyn, where I &the many Coast Guard servicemen jaywalk between the Metro and work. But now I'm afraid I'll forget to give up the habit when I cross the Potomac into DC.

Once I figure that the cars don't mind hitting me, the pedestrian, or are annoyed at me for walking along the narrow shoulders of roads where there are no sidewalks, no empathy motivates me to avoid becoming a traffic hazard. I can duck and dive well.
7.4.2005 5:19pm
Al Maviva (mail):
The supreme irony in all of this is that many "offenders" will find themselves in the traffic adjudication court, which was recently the subject of a series of public corruption arrests for graft, traffic ticket fixing, and embezzlement. Even discounting the graft at the adjudication center, the District operates in a manner that would be the envy of an average third world kleptocrat. Just try to find an up-to-date publicly available copy of the District code some time. You probably wont, unless you perchance to hear about the single publicly available, regularly updated copy of the District code, which is tucked away in the M.L.K. library, near Metro Center. Individual statutes and regulations are sometimes available on the web, but there's no way of knowing whether a web version is accurate, up-to-date or superceded, since any posting of regs and code is haphazzard.

The only good thing to come out of D.C. home rule is the occasional WaPost article wondering why the District keeps losing population to the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs. That is always good for a belly laugh, especially among those of us who have moved to the 'burbs to avoid suffering from the whims of this petty police state.
7.4.2005 5:32pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail):
DC has probably more lawyers per square mile than almost anywhere else, and a strong professional commitment to pro bono (bear with me here.) Also lots of law students looking for trial experience. caveat: i don't know the dc code. if it's "$10 or life in jail" this wouldn't work. But the trick is, start contesting the tickets. Get a $10 ticket? Depose the officer, and his/her boss. Subpoena the code, throw it on a web page, with a guide of how to do these pro se. Ask for breakdowns of enforcment by race. Ask for jury trial if that's an option. Look into counterclaims and countermeasures. Make the trial last a day or two. File appeals in forma pauperis where applicable. This could be great publicity for a firm or school, and bring the system to a dead stop. It's a traffic analysis issue - study the minimum effort needed to put a bottleneck in the system, then gather the resources to provide that effort. And negotiate a reasonable overall outcome. This approach can be used in a variety of settings and issues.
7.4.2005 7:23pm
This whole thread seems a little overblown. So they're handing out tickets for jaywalking. Last time I checked, jaywalking was illegal just about everywhere, and has been for decades. And there's an easy (and not terribly inconvenient) solution: Don't jaywalk!
7.4.2005 9:01pm
jallgor (mail):
Everyone is forgetting another reason for enforcing jaywalking laws. Jaywalkers cause traffic. Especially in congested cities like NYC. You have to stop for people in the road (even if you have a green light) and in a place like NYC if cars can't get through a green light it can cause traffic chaos very quickly. That was the main reason Giuliani targeted the intersections he targeted. Those streets are notorious for containing swarms of cattle-like pedestrians blocking the road.
7.5.2005 1:57pm
Seamus (mail):
Back in (IIRC) 1978, the administration of then-Mayor-for-Life Marion Barry tried a crackdown on jaywalking, only the be stymied when a local court ruled that people who were ticketed were under no obligation to provide licenses to verify their identities. Thus, someone who was collared for jaywalking could with impunity give a false name and address, and there would be no way to enforce the ticket unless the cops were prepared to arrest the jaywalker and hold him in the hoosegow until he posted collateral. Apparently the D.C. government was unwilling to go that far. Maybe things have changed now.
7.5.2005 4:29pm