Pedestrian-related accidents have seen an unfortunate increase recently, particularly in Montgomery County. There have been 14 pedestrian accidents just this year, five of which resulted in fatalities.
There was even one incident in Bethesda where a car struck an infant in a stroller being pushed across a crosswalk.
“We, the parents of students attending Bethesda Elementary School, are horrified by the number of traffic accidents and near-accidents in and around downtown Bethesda,” said an online petition launched by Bethesda elementary school parents. “The safety of this walkable haven is at risk.”
While there haven’t been as many pedestrian-related deaths in Prince George’s County this year, College Park officials recognize that pedestrian safety still needs to be addressed. Most notably, the city plans to build additional crosswalks on busy Route 1 and Rhode Island Avenue.
In Riverdale Park, the development of a new shopping center has forced the city’s council to find ways to ensure pedestrian safety in the area, while traffic officials in Chevy Chase have also begun plans to retime pedestrian signals at intersections.
Montgomery County police have also addressed the issue, announcing that it is participating in Street Smart, a two-week step up in enforcement of pedestrian safety laws in cities like Wheaton.
The county’s police department announced last week that it would conduct a series of pedestrian enforcement “stings” throughout the month of May, where officers will issue citations to drivers who do not stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.
have already set up enforcement at dangerous intersections following the death of a 55-year-old man who was struck and killed by a school bus, giving citations and warnings to anyone breaking traffic laws. They have also tried to educate pedestrians on proper use of crosswalks to address both sides of the issues.
Meanwhile, as a reaction to increased vehicular and pedestrian accidents, Rockville and Laurel have set up more red light cameras to promote safety at crosswalks and intersections. Rockville police report that there was a significant drop in red light violations as a result.
"It's absolutely effective,” said Rockville Police Chief T.N. Treschuk when asked about the city’s initiative. “That drop in violations shows that less people are running red lights, which makes those intersections much safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and other drivers."
Montgomery County and Prince George’s County have been using cameras to deter speeding near school zones and pedestrian-heavy areas.
But drivers have become more aware of where speed cameras are in Montgomery County, therefore slowing down at the fixed cameras and then speeding up afterward.
Takoma Park has gone a step further by putting semi-portable cameras on the heavily traveled New Hampshire Avenue and University Boulevard, so that drivers aren’t always aware of where the cameras are on those roads.
Other cities have implemented more unique measures to keep pedestrians safe. Hyattsville has added new bike racks throughout the city and will be getting new bike lanes on roads by the end of the month in order to promote bicyclists and pedestrian awareness.
There is still a question of exactly who is at fault in these accidents. Is it the drivers, or the pedestrians? In cities like Silver Spring, CountyStat, a component of Montgomery County’s accountability program, has looked to answer that question.
The program looked through traffic and pedestrian accident data from 2007-2011, and in 2011, the research found that 56.5 percent of accidents were the driver’s fault and 39.7 percent were caused by pedestrians.
“As Montgomery County becomes more populous and public transportation options grow,” Nancy Navarro, Montgomery Council President, said, “pedestrians and bikers are becoming more common on our streets. We must use all available tools to ensure safety for drivers, bikers, and pedestrians.”
Protecting Pedestrians: Fatal Accidents and Traffic Cameras