Predominantly black neighborhoods in D.C. bear the brunt of automated traffic enforcement


A driver in a black-segregated area is over 17 times more likely to receive a moving violation than in a white segregated area.

Washington, D.C.,  a member of the International Vision Zero movement, committed itself to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2024 through the implementation of engineering, education, and enforcement strategies. Washington, D.C. has also leaned on automatic traffic enforcement with speed cameras and red light cameras to enforce traffic laws and achieve their goal of zero traffic deaths. Although proponents argue that automated enforcement removes the potential for racial discrimination, neutral automated traffic cameras can unintentionally further racial disparities. This research analyzed moving violation citations, crash data, and census data from 2016 and concluded that the racial geography of D.C. does play a role in the enforcement of traffic violations.

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Key Findings:

  • D.C. has 47 red light cameras and 74 speed cameras installed.
  • Collisions and injuries near speed cameras decreased by 17 to 20 percent in the three years following installation. 
  • In 2016, Metropolitan Police Department issued 966,806 moving violations equaling $115 million in fines.
  • 34 percent of white D.C. residents live in a predominantly white neighborhood, whereas 52 percent of Black residents live in predominantly Black neighborhoods.
  • Drivers in predominantly Black neighborhoods received more moving violations and higher fines.
  • Black neighborhoods do not experience a more significant number of crashes.
  • The median wealth of white families is 81 times higher than the median wealth of Black families.


  • Earmark the revenue raised from fines to fund structural safety improvements. Add camera enforcement’s disparate racial and economic impacts into the District Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Police Department citing criteria.
  • Consider a progressive fining scheme scaled to the income of the driver.
William Farrell
DC Policy Center