Pedestrian Crashes Up 14% in First Half of 2019
Council members say officials need to ‘dig into’ the ‘alarming’ data
Pedestrians and bicyclists cross a street in Montgomery County.
Through the first half of the year, 272 pedestrians and bicyclists have been struck by vehicles on roads in Montgomery County – about 1.5 per day, according to county data.
Pedestrian- and bicyclist-involved crashes increased by about 14% from the same six months in 2018, when 238 crashes occurred.
Montgomery County Council member Tom Hucker, who represents the Silver Spring area, said he receives frequent updates about pedestrian safety and crashes so the data isn’t surprising, but “it’s disappointing.”
While the county Planning Department begins a comprehensive project to assess all of the roads in the county based on their levels of “pedestrian comfort,” including walkability and safety, Hucker said he hopes county police crack down on enforcement of dangerous driving that could put pedestrians and bicyclists at risk.
“I’m hopeful (the pedestrian master plan) will be a tool in our toolbox, but I don’t want to wait for that,” Hucker said. “I want to continue to push the police to do more enforcement and for the Department of Transportation to do more assessments and redesigns of dangerous intersections and corridors.”
Six pedestrians have been killed after being struck by cars through the end of June.
About 40% of the crashes so far in 2019 have occurred on county roads, while roughly 30% happened on state roads, according to county data. Another 20% occurred in areas such as driveways, parking lots or alleys and the remaining 10% of crashes were on municipal or other roads.
The increases are occurring despite a countywide push called Vision Zero that seeks to eliminate all pedestrian deaths by 2030. Several elements of the plan, like installing temporary traffic control devices for a pilot safety program and developing a long-range safety plan, were expected to be implemented by 2018 but have stalled, according to county leaders.
Vision Zero targets the systems in place as a means of creating a safer environment, which means focusing on roadway designs and setting adequate speed limits instead of targeting pedestrian or driver error.
Vehicle crashes and fatalities involving youth are most likely to occur in the summer, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but the most pedestrian-involved crashes of all age groups generally occur between September and November.
Most crashes happen between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., according to the NHTSA.
The NHTSA encourages pedestrians to obey traffic signals and use crosswalks and make eye contact with drivers as they prepare to cross a street. For drivers, the organization encourages motorists remain alert, slow down and be prepared to stop when turning and be cautious when backing up.
A member of the County Council’s Transportation & Environment Committee, Evan Glass said Montgomery’s data through the first half of 2019 is “alarming,” but said county leaders need to dig deeper into the data to determine where and why the crashes are occurring and prevent more crashes.
“A 14% increase is terrible, but we need to better understand the data and … I’m committed to that fact-finding investigation,” Glass said. “We need to continue educating everyone about safely traveling throughout our region, whether it’s as a pedestrian, bicyclist, scooter user or driver.”
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org