2014 | News

Statistics Show Shift in Citations of Drivers, Pedestrians for Crosswalk Violations

Ninety-six percent of citations were issued to pedestrians in 2011 and 2012; focus shifted to a more balanced enforcement strategy in 2013

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via Montgomery County Police presentation

A shift in enforcement by Montgomery County police has resulted in far more citations issued to drivers  who disobey crosswalk regulations.

Statistics that the police department presented to a County Council committee on Thursday show that in 2011 and 2012 police issued a total of 1,621 citations to pedestrians for crosswalk violations. In those same years, police issued just 65 citations to drivers for failing to yield at a crosswalk, failing to yield on turns and speeding through crosswalks.

But in 2013, things changed. That year 651 drivers were cited for crosswalk violations, while 630 pedestrians were cited for infractions including crossing against the signal and midblock crossings. Police went from citing pedestrians 96 percent of the time to less than 50 percent—so what happened?

“The police department made a very conscious shift,” Councilmember Hans Riemer said. “It’s deliberate and represents an evolution in their enforcement strategy.”

Lt. Robert McCullough, of the police department’s traffic division, said officers are focusing traffic enforcement and crosswalk stings in areas that have been identified as “high incidence areas” based on crash data.

He said police are conducting about two to three crosswalk stings per week, but have plans to increase that number to five or six per week. McCullough said the department could increase the number of stings if it could pay more overtime to officers for traffic enforcement.

Councilmember Roger Berliner said the council was waiting for the department to submit a request for additional funding.

Riemer said he supports making pedestrian safety policing a higher spending priority in the department’s budget.

“It’s a critical part of the public safety program,” Riemer said. “I’d like to see departments make this a priority within their existing allocations.”

Statistics provided to the committee Thursday show that the average number of collisions between pedestrians and cars per year has not changed since the county launched an education and enforcement initiative in 2010. From 2005 to 2009 there was an average of 435 pedestrian collisions per year and the average did not change from 2010 to 2013.

However, the average number of fatalities and collisions resulting in serious injuries has dropped by 31 percent and 25 percent, respectively. Prior to the initiative there was an average of 16 pedestrian fatalities per year in the county, compared to 11 after the initiative.

Last year, the roads with the highest number of pedestrian collisions were all state roads: Piney Branch Road (8), Wisconsin Avenue (6), Georgia Avenue (11) and Rockville Pike (4).

Riemer believes the county’s traffic enforcement efforts should focus on eliminating pedestrian fatalities.

Part of that goal, Riemer says, is creating a county network of bike lanes, mass transit and sidewalk improvements. It’s a hot-button issue that council members are navigating as they deal with state road planners who frequently contend that high traffic volume on state roadways limits their ability to add bike lanes or widen sidewalks. Most recently, engineers have said the amount of traffic on Old Georgetown Road in White Flint and Arlington Road in downtown Bethesda prevents the reduction of travel lanes and the addition of bike lanes.

“I don’t think we should constrain the infrastructure we need around existing patterns,” Riemer said. “We’re trying to transition these urban districts to a new model and the old patterns aren’t going to work with it.”