Thanks to the end of daylight saving time, many residents are doing their evening commute as darkness falls across the area. With reduced visibility, risk for pedestrians and bicyclists grows higher.
Last year, 75 individuals in the Washington, D.C., metro region died due to a traffic-related crash. In an effort to raise awareness about pedestrian and bicyclist safety, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCG) recently kicked off its annual Street Smart safety campaign.
From now until Nov. 27, police officers will be stopping and ticketing drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists they see breaking traffic laws. Tickets for offenses such as failing to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk, speeding, running red lights or jaywalking could lead to fines from $40 to $500 or result in points added to a motorist’s driving record.
The Gaithersburg and Montgomery County Police Departments will be participating in the campaign, which also involves more than a dozen other agencies including the Prince George’s County and Metropolitan Police Departments.
In a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pedestrian and bicyclist deaths last year reached their highest level in 20 years. Nationwide, 4,910 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2014 with the number jumping to 5,376 last year—a nearly 10 percent increase. Bicyclists’ deaths increased 12 percent from 729 in 2014 to 818 last year. The data also stated 72 percent of pedestrian deaths happen during darkness with one in four deaths occurring between the hours of 6 to 9 p.m.
According to a release from MWCG, regional pedestrian-related crashes in November and December increased last year to more than 550 incidents, which is 20 percent higher than years past.
Campaign safety tips for drivers include avoid using your cell phone, look twice for people in crosswalks, yield to pedestrians and cyclists at intersections when you are turning and slow down. Pedestrians are encouraged to always cross the street at the corner and use marked crosswalks when available, wait for the “walk” signal to cross and wear light or reflective clothes if you are walking at night or in bad weather. Bicyclists should always use hand signals to alert others of their intentions, ride in the direction of traffic with at least a car door width away from parked cars, use lights if riding in the dark and wear a helmet.