Campaign For Pedestrian Safety Begins
Many of the region's political and law enforcement leaders were at Thomas Circle in Washington today to renew their annual "Street Smart" campaign for pedestrian and bicycle safety. Of late, pedestrian accidents have provided their own unfortunate reminders that we need to be alert and aware of our surroundings as we drive, ride and walk.
But the problem didn't suddenly arise in the past few weeks: One out of every four people killed on the region's roads was walking or biking when the accident occurred.
There are many letters in the Dr. Gridlock mailbag from people concerned about what's going on. Some are proposing law enforcement solutions. Usually, that means they want to see more law enforcement, like more ticketing of cellphone-using drivers in the District. On the other hand, I did get my first letter the other day from a driver protesting the new D.C. pedestrian safety law that bars drivers from going around a stopped bus to make a right turn.
But quite often, the letter writers are calling for more personal responsibility, rather than more law enforcement. They note the unsettling number of people who cross in mid-block, wearing dark clothing and headphones, while avoiding eye contact with oncoming vehicles.
The choice of Thomas Circle for today's safety campaign launch was interesting, because it illustrates another part of the solution, an engineering solution. When the District Department of Transportation completed the reconstruction of the circle last year, the new design included bicycle lanes on the outer part of the roadway and pedestrian access to the center of the circle. That last feature wasn't just to give pedestrians a better view of the Rock of Chickamauga astride his horse.
It's actually an easier, quicker and safer way to walk across the circle.
I find in my travels that there's a new emphasis on pedestrian safety among traffic engineers in the Washington region and across the country. I see it in the designs of streets, the markings on the roadways, the warning signs and the pedestrian and bike accessways.
Many folks just want to know what the rules are. The Street Smart campaign gives out some good advice for drivers, bikers and pedestrians in this brochure.
Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger, who also has served as chief in Fairfax County, gave me an interesting theory on the causes of some pedestrian crashes. He thinks that urban drivers, who constantly see pedestrians, tend to be more aware of them. Suburban drivers, he theorizes, don't see as many pedestrians and may be less alert for them. He also suggested another urban/suburban split: Drivers who are rarely pedestrians themselves tend to be less aware of walkers.
Statistics compiled by the Northern Virginia Injury Prevention Center and Inova Regional Trauma Center for a report on the region's pedestrian injuries showed that most drivers involved in such accidents were driving straight and apparently not taking evasive action to avoid the collision, an indication that they were not paying attention.
The report showed that the most common action of a pedestrian before an accident was either crossing in the middle of the roadway or crossing without a "go" signal.
You can read the entire report by clicking here.
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