Four pedestrians lost their lives in the Washington metro area during March. The monthly death toll includes a one-year-old child in Temple Hills and a beloved elderly church usher who was a “pillar” of her place of worship in Washington, D.C. It is a grim reminder of the risks that pedestrians and cyclists share in navigating area roadways, cautions AAA Mid-Atlantic.
So far, this year, 14 pedestrians have been killed on area roads, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. That deathly toll includes four pedestrians who perished while crossing roadways in Washington, D.C., including 71-year-old usher, as she departed her church on the 1100 block of Florida Avenue. The grim statistic also includes four pedestrians in Montgomery County.
Two pedestrians were killed in Prince George’s County in March, including the year-old baby on St. Barnabas Road in Temple Hills, plus a 53-year-old Capitol Heights man on foot who was killed in a separate hit-and-run incident on the Beltway in an incident in late March. That month in Montgomery County, where at least one person is struck by a vehicle each day on average, six pedestrians were hit in a two-day span, warns AAA Mid-Atlantic.
“Although the overall number of fatal crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists has fallen in recent years, one such fatal crash is still one too many and totally unacceptable,” commented John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “As in previous years the highest pedestrian crash rates in the Washington area are cropping up in the region’s urban core and inner suburban areas. We owe a debt to each other as we travel roadways throughout the area. We not only have to share the roads with each other, we must watch out for each other.”
Another foot-traveler was struck and killed by a train in Fairfax County back in February. Last year, the region experienced 3,033 crashes that resulted in 70 pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities, according to Street Smart, which kicked off its spring education program today. That accounts for 26.5 percent of the 265 traffic fatalities in the Greater Washington metro area during 2012.
Where you live and where you walk can make all the difference in the world, says AAA Mid-Atlantic. In fact, research also shows “pedestrian trauma is the most lethal blunt trauma mechanism, and the rate of mortality in African Americans and Hispanics is twice that compared with whites.” That’s according to a landmark 2010 study conducted by the Department of Surgery at the Georgetown University Hospital, the Department of Surgery at Howard University Hospital, and the Center for Surgery Trials and Outcome Research at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
In their review of vehicle-struck pedestrians in the National Trauma Data Bank, the researchers found, “Hispanics had 33% greater odds of mortality, and African-Americans had 22% greater odds of mortality, compared with whites.” After examining the cases of 26,404 patients, ages 16 to 64 years old, suffering from pedestrian trauma, they also found uninsured patients had 77% greater odds of mortality, compared with privately-insured patients.
Last year, eight pedestrians perished in Washington, D.C. proper, bringing number of pedestrian fatalities down to record or near record levels, “Last year the number of pedestrians killed tied with 2002 for the lowest number on record since at least 1931.” That’s according to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT). The District experienced 11 pedestrian fatalities in 2011 and two bicyclist fatalities, and two motorcyclist fatalities as 32 persons perished in traffic crashes in the city, notes the Metropolitan Police Department.
During 2012, six pedestrians were killed in deathly incidents in Montgomery County, Maryland. Still that’s an annual decrease of 68 percent from a high of 19 pedestrian fatalities the county experienced in 2008, according to the Montgomery County Police Department.
The Spring Street Smart Campaign runs through May 13. Law enforcement officers in Washington, D.C, Maryland, and Virginia will be “watching for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists who break traffic safety laws,” local officials warned at today’s kickoff news conference. Violators face fines that range from $40 to $500 throughout the metro area, says Michael Farrell, the Street Smart Coordinator at the MWCOG Transportation Planning Board (TPB).
To prevent such fatal encounters, Montgomery County Police Department has “issued nearly 3,000 citations and about 1,000 warnings to both pedestrians and motorists” in its enhanced enforcement of pedestrian and traffic safety laws.
Likewise, the Metropolitan Police Department is cracking down on motorists who fail to yield to pedestrians. The number of citations has skyrocketed 87 percent in recent years. In the District, such tickets can cost as much as $250 and 3 points. That’s the penalty for drivers failing to stop and give the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks. However, “if a driver strikes a pedestrian in the process of failing to stop, the penalty is $500 and 6 points,” warns DDOT.
In 2010 and 2011, the city saw 14 bicycle crashes on Pennsylvania Ave NW, the only road in the District with a center bike lane. The vast majority of those crashes – 78.5 percent or 11 out of 14 - involved drivers making U-turns. In November, Mayor Vincent Gray signed emergency legislation banning drivers from making U-turns across bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue. The prohibition is in effect even when cyclists aren’t present.
All told, the District issued 1,617, tickets in Fiscal Year 2012 for stopping or standing in a bike lane and 1,079 tickets for the offense in FY11. That compares to 102 such tickets in FY10, and just two back in FY09, statistics by the District Department of Public Works show.
AAA Mid-Atlantic advocates on behalf of its nearly four million members in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. It provides a wide range of personal insurance, travel, financial and automotive services through its 50-plus retail branches, regional operations centers, and the Internet.