County Leaders Set Sights on Eliminating Traffic Deaths, Serious Crashes By 2030

County Leaders Set Sights on Eliminating Traffic Deaths, Serious Crashes By 2030

Two-year action plan includes 41-item checklist aimed at improving road safety

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County Executive Ike Leggett holds a press conference on a two-year plan to decrease the number of traffic fatalities and serious collisions.

Bethany Rodgers

Montgomery County leaders want to eliminate traffic deaths and severe crashes on county roadways by 2030. On Wednesday, they released a two-year action plan to start them on that path.

County Executive Ike Leggett said the “Vision Zero” plan includes 41 tasks meant to improve road safety, raise awareness, increase enforcement, provide prompt rescue services and pass relevant laws and policies. By November 2019, officials hope these actions will help reduce fatal and other severe crashes on county roadways by 35 percent.

“Vision Zero … is a bold plan. It is one that we can embrace and champion together in order to bring to zero the number of heartbreaking deaths and injuries throughout our county,” Leggett said Wednesday at a press conference.

Montgomery County joins other governments in establishing a Vision Zero plan. The goal in Washington, D.C., is to have zero fatalities or serious injuries to travelers by 2024.

About 53 percent of Montgomery County’s severe and fatal crashes take place on roadways under the state’s control, not on county roadways, according to the Vision Zero document. While the initiative unveiled Wednesday focuses on county-owned roadways, the state has its own strategic plan called “Toward Zero Deaths,” noted Al Roshdieh, the county’s transportation director. 

As part of the to-do list, Montgomery County officials are publishing a feedback map that will let community members submit information about crashes or possible safety problems at certain locations. They also plan on studying the placement and design of transit stops, since a significant number of crashes happen as people are walking to or from these waiting areas.

Other parts of the plan involve adding speed cameras, increasing enforcement of traffic laws and buying unmarked police cars, so officers can more easily catch distracted drivers in the act.

County fire and rescue workers are tasked with maintaining emergency response times and forming plans for working safely while they’re on the scene of traffic crashes. Public outreach on safe driving, cycling and walking are also pieces of the strategy.

Here are other action items in the plan:

  • Analyze countywide crash data
  • Work with Maryland officials to minimize crashes on state-owned roads
  • Speed up sidewalk building
  • Create a crash review team involving police, transportation agencies and others
  • Expand outreach to school-age children about getting to school safely
  • Increase public awareness about the dangers of drowsy driving
  • Target county and state laws that could impede the county’s progress on traffic safety
  • Complete a pedestrian master plan
  • Publish data on crashes
  • Develop a 10-year action plan for achieving Vision Zero goals.

Officials said they don’t yet have a cost estimate for carrying out the two-year action plan, but Council President Roger Berliner committed to working with his colleagues to finance the initiative.

The County Council in early 2016 passed a resolution directing the county to craft a plan and establish a deadline for preventing traffic deaths.

Berliner said he sponsored the measure after several fatal crashes on Bethesda roadways.

In August 2015, a former Navy SEAL died after a car hit him while he was cycling on Massachusetts Avenue. Several months later, a 95-year-old woman was killed while crossing River Road on her way to attend her bowling league. In January 2016, a Ride On bus struck and killed a 67-year-old Rockville woman who was crossing Old Georgetown Road.

“It is time we stop using the word ‘accident’ in our county. There are not accidents. There are crashes. All of these crashes are preventable,” Berliner said.

Interim targets in the plan call for decreasing fatalities and injuries on county roadways by half by 2022 and by 70 percent by 2024, according to the action plan.

Between 2012 and 2016, an average of 35 people died and 400 people were severely injured each year on roads in Montgomery County, Leggett said.

The Vision Zero approach embraced by the county originated in Sweden in 1997 and has spread to more than two dozen cities and other jurisdictions across the United States. Montgomery County has become one of the first counties in the nation to take on the goal, Leggett said.

Leggett said the county has also made strides with its pedestrian safety initiative, a strategic plan issued about a decade ago.

“But that progress is not sufficient,” he said.

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