With pedestrians facing a higher risk of being involved in collisions as the time changes on Sunday, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett today launched a public education campaign at the Leisure World Plaza Shopping Center to raise awareness about pedestrian safety in parking lots, especially for seniors. Over the last three and one-half years, there have been 1,496 pedestrian collisions in the county, and of those, about 22 percent, or 324 collisions, have occurred in parking lots. Yet, pedestrian safety in parking lots has received little attention, either regionally or nationally.
“More than one-fifth of Montgomery County’s pedestrian collisions take place in parking lots, so we are expanding our education efforts to reduce the number of these preventable crashes,” said Leggett. “We hope the ’Parking Lots are Danger Zones!’ campaign will raise awareness about this issue and be another step forward in our efforts to prevent any more needless pedestrian deaths or injuries.”
Drivers ages 65 and older and pedestrians ages 18 to 29 and over 74 were disproportionately involved in parking lot collisions compared to the percentage of these age groups in the general population and among licensed Montgomery County drivers.
“When talking about quality of life issues, pedestrian safety is a common theme raised by residents of Montgomery County ,”said District 4 County Councilmember Nancy Navarro, whose district includes the Leisure World community. “We need to keep improving the walkability of neighborhoods throughout the county, but particularly for seniors, who often live in areas with lots of vehicular traffic.”
The parking lot safety campaign kicks off the first of several pedestrian safety events over the next month that Leggett is holding to promote greater awareness among drivers and pedestrians during the annual change from Daylight Savings Time to Eastern Standard Time, which occurs this year on November 1. Pedestrian collisions spike during the winter months and according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, fatal pedestrian/motor vehicle collisions occur most often between 6 p.m. and midnight.
Leggett has made pedestrian safety a priority of his administration, focusing on more education, engineering improvements and enhanced enforcement. As part of the public education campaign, groups at a particularly high risk of being involved in pedestrian collisions have been targeted, including non-native English speakers, new teen and adult drivers, and seniors.
To promote the “Parking Lots are Danger Zones!” safety messages, the County is urging residents to get involved by spreading the word about this issue. There is an online toolkit to facilitate conversations with neighbors, civic associations, community groups, religious organizations, service groups and others about staying safe in parking lots. The kit includes a 10-minute downloadable PowerPoint presentation, an article for civic or school newsletters or online list serves, a tip sheet for drivers and pedestrians about how to stay safe and ways to get neighbors and friends involved. County staff is distributing posters and tip sheets to libraries; senior, recreation, and community centers; property managers; retailers; and others. About 40 Ride On buses and some movie theaters in the county will feature ads encouraging both drivers and pedestrians to take personal responsibility for ensuring the safety of others.
Leggett made the announcement about the campaign at the Giant Food store in the Leisure World Plaza shopping center, which is managed by Lerner Enterprises.
“We recognize the importance of pedestrian safety at Leisure World Plaza and have taken steps to enhance safety by installing pedestrian awareness signage in drive lanes, adding painted crosswalks, adding sidewalk bollards and strategically locating stop signs,” said Norman Dreyfuss, executive vice president with The IDI Group Companies, representing the owner of Leisure World Plaza in Silver Spring. “We are pleased that Montgomery County has chosen Leisure World Plaza to host their press conference and pedestrian safety outreach, and we support their efforts in this regard.”
“The safety and wellbeing of our customers and associates is always our number one priority,” said Public Affairs Manager for Giant Food Jamie Miller. “We encourage both pedestrians and drivers to be aware and use caution in our parking lots. Simply by following posted speed limits and crossing in designated crosswalks, we can all do our part to make sure everyone gets home safely.”
To learn more about public perception of the issue, County staff conducted a survey of property managers to find out if they were concerned about parking lot pedestrian safety. Of the 19 managers who responded, with about 50 percent said they had taken action to raise awareness about pedestrian safety in their parking areas among both drivers and pedestrians. The actions included newsletter items, literature and more traffic control signs. About 50 percent of respondents also said they were interested in distributing brochures about pedestrian safety and about 25 percent said they would display posters provided by the County.
Staff also conducted informal focus groups with seniors to learn more about their perceptions of parking lot safety. Many seniors said they felt at risk in parking lots. Some strategies they use to stay safe and avoid collisions include walking and driving defensively, parking as close to the store as possible to reduce walking distances in parking lots and being patient.
The parking lot education campaign will urge pedestrians to:
• Always stay alert for vehicles.
• Don’t assume drivers see you.
• Watch for vehicles pulling out of parking spaces.
• Don’t walk behind a vehicle that is backing out.
• Be cautious and look around before walking out between parked vehicles.
• Treat the parking lot as you would a road – be aware and constantly look out for moving vehicles.
Drivers are reminded to:
• Slow down! Parking lots are not speedways.
• Always stay alert for pedestrians.
• Don’t assume pedestrians see you.
• Be especially cautious backing out of a space.
• Never cut across parking space lanes.
• Treat the parking lot as you would a road – be aware and constantly look out for pedestrians.
For the online materials or more information, go to www.montgomerycountymd.gov/walk.
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