Pedestrian fatalities drop in Montgomery County

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Local,Maryland,Transportation,Ben Giles
Montgomery County's efforts to curb the number of pedestrian fatalities appear to be paying off as officials report fewer collisions and deaths on eight roads where the county had experienced the highest concentration of incidents.

There were 13 pedestrian fatalities in the county in 2010, down from 19 deaths in 2008. And of the 436 collisions that occurred last year, only a quarter resulted in serious injuries. There were four pedestrian deaths through June, according to officials, projecting a seven-year low in pedestrian fatalities.

"The trend overall is clearly in those high-incident areas, collisions are going down," said Tim Firestine, the county's chief administrative officer. "And those areas where the improvements have been in place the longest, like Piney Branch Road and Wisconsin Avenue, there's significant improvement."

Pedestrian fatalities
200510
200618
200717
200819
200914
201013
20114
Source: Montgomery CountyStat

Montgomery County has averaged more than 400 pedestrian collisions a year since 2005, but the number of fatalities as a result of those incidents has been falling since 2007, when officials created a pedestrian safety initiative.

The program, started by County Executive Ike Leggett in December 2007, has used on-site enforcement and education tactics to make drivers and pedestrians more aware of road safety on sidewalks and crosswalks.

Millions of dollars have been spent upgrading pedestrian signals and crosswalk markings, and on resurfacing projects in conjunction with the Maryland State Highway Administration, which controls some of the most deadly stretches of road in Montgomery County, such as Route 355, Piney Branch Road and Georgia Avenue.

Funds have dwindled since 2009, when the county set aside $5 million for Leggett's initiative, forcing officials to become more creative with their spending in recent years -- $1.3 million was allocated to the program for construction, education, and enforcement measures in the current fiscal year.

Using police collision data with CountyStat, the department that analyzes date for the county,

officials have spent the last several years focusing the funds on targeted areas where deadly collisions are most common, Firestine said.

"A lot of the money was being spent in areas of the county where there weren't any collisions," he said. "There was a lot of frustration ... programs being thrown at things, but how did we know that we're doing a better job."

The program has focused on eight corridors, including Piney Branch Road, Georgia Avenue, as well as Route 355 in Rockville and Bethesda.

Police officers who had been canvassing the corridors and warning pedestrians and drivers of their misdeeds soon will begin a new zero-tolerance strategy, with greater emphasis on issuing citations for traffic violations and jaywalking, according to Police Chief Thomas Manger.

bgiles@washingtonexaminer.com

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