Six Montgomery County pedestrians struck in two days

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Local,Maryland,Kate Jacobson,Montgomery County

Montgomery County officials said they are concerned about pedestrian safety after six people were hit by cars while walking in a two-day span.

Five people were injured after they were hit by cars in three separate incidents on Tuesday around the county, and one man was hit in Bethesda on Wednesday morning.

County spokeswoman Esther Bowring said the high number of incidents in such a short period is disconcerting. Montgomery County Police released a statement reminding pedestrians to be safe while walking the streets.

But advocates for pedestrian safety and walkable communities are speaking out, saying the county is downplaying the role motorists play in pedestrian collisions.

Ben Ross, vice president of the Action Committee for Transit, asked what it was going to take for Montgomery County Police to hold drivers accountable for the accidents.

"County police responded with a press release entitled 'Police remind pedestrians to be careful,' " Ross said. "Nowhere did the police tell drivers to obey the law, which requires drivers to yield to pedestrians on sidewalks and in marked and unmarked crosswalks."

According to police, pedestrians had the right of way in all three incidents on Tuesday. Three of the victims -- a mother and her two children -- were struck on a sidewalk at Gaithersburg Elementary School. Another was a high school student in a marked crosswalk near Watkins Mill High School in Gaithersburg. All six victims survived, though the man who was hit Wednesday in Bethesda was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

Police are continuing to investigate all four incidents.

Despite increased efforts to reduce pedestrian-car collisions, Bowring said sometimes other factors -- such as daylight saving time -- affect driver and pedestrian awareness.

"There are different risk factors for pedestrian collision," she said. "Pedestrians really need to be really vigilant in the dark. Drivers need to be really aware that [pedestrian] visibility is diminished."

So far this year, there have been four fatal pedestrian collisions in Montgomery County compared with seven in all of 2012. But pedestrian fatalities there have been reduced by half since 2008, when 19 pedestrians died in collisions.

Bowring said the county is still reviewing last year's data to find ways to improve its pedestrian safety program.

"We are constantly trying to get better information and better data to help us focus our efforts in the areas where it's most important to do that," she said.

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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