United States Capitol Police have issued more than 440 citations for distracted driving on the streets near the US Capitol in the past three years, according to a review by the News4 I-Team.
The dangerous driving poses a potential risk to the thousands of Congressional staffers, visitors and elected leaders who frequently cross those streets on foot.
The I-Team reviewed Capitol Police incident data in the wake of a deadly hit-and-run accident, in which a Congressional staffer was struck as she crossed East Capitol Street in May. Nearly all of the citations issued by Capitol Police were classified as “distracted driving,” which includes tickets for the use of texting or cellphone devices while driving. A smaller number of citations were issued for leaving the scene of a collision on or near the Capitol grounds.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said the frequency of distracted driving citations represent a risk to pedestrians throughout the Capitol Hill neighborhood.
“I’m amazed at those statistics," Holmes Norton said. "There must be 20,000 staff alone who work here. If you add the members of Congress, you get a lot of walking in the streets.”
News4 I-Team cameras, deployed at multiple locations along the Capitol grounds in recent weeks, captured images of a series of drivers using portable electronic devices while driving along the nearest streets. On multiple occasions, drivers were observed pointing their phones, at eye level, toward the Capitol building, an indication those drivers were snapping photos of the building while driving.
A spokeswoman said all 1,750 members of the US Capitol Police force are trained and equipped to issue citations for distracted driving, if they observe such driving violations. When asked how and why the agency issued 440 of those citations within a 3-year time frame, the spokeswoman said it was “a byproduct of the agency’s police work.”
A hit-and-run driver, not yet found and not yet issued a citation, struck and fatally injured Lisa Radogno, a staffer for Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL). Radogno’s mother said her daughter was walking home from the Senate near the intersection of East Capitol St and 17th St, NE when she was struck.
Multiple reports said Radogno was in a crosswalk at the time. She was injured and traveled home to Illinois to recuperate, but her mother said Radogno's injuries ultimately worsened. She died of a pulmonary embolism in June.
“But for that accident, [Lisa] would be here with us today," Radogno’s mother, Illinois State Senator Christine Radogno said. "I know there are many important people walking around Washington, D.C., but there’s nobody more important than my daughter. And – to the same token – there’s nobody less important than my daughter.”
Metropolitan Police in D.C. investigated the crash that killed Radogno. A News4 I-Team review found multiple citations by US Capitol Police to drivers for leaving the scene of a traffic collision.
Radogno's mother said authorities and family members are still seeking tips and information from witnesses about the accident that ultimately killed her daughter. Radogno’s family said the car involved was a white 2011 Nissan with Maryland license plates.