To promote pedestrian safety before nearly 142,000 local children start school on Monday, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett today announced the installation of new fixed pole speed cameras at White Oak Middle School, where speeding has been a chronic problem for many years. Two cameras were installed at the school – one for each direction of traffic on New Hampshire Avenue. These are the first new, fixed pole cameras to be installed since 2009.
White Oak Middle School was selected because traditional traffic enforcement practices have not been successful in slowing traffic and reducing collisions at this location. Police also announced that they will be enhancing traffic enforcement activities in school zones during the first few weeks of school.
“One of the top priorities of my administration is the prevention of needless pedestrian deaths and injuries, and speed cameras are an important tool in reining in reckless drivers,” said Leggett. “Speeding near neighborhood schools is a very serious problem. As children start school on Monday, I urge everyone to slow down to save lives. For those who don’t, Montgomery County Police will be out in full force near school zones ensuring that drivers obey the law.”
For decades, Police have combated persistent speeding on New Hampshire Avenue near the school. The area has a history of serious personal injury collisions. Since 2003, three fatal, 122 injury, and 71 property damage collisions were reported within one-half mile of White Oak Middle School. Of the injury collisions, 10 involved pedestrians.
Over a seven-day period, Police monitored speed in front of White Oak Middle School and found that 36,000 vehicles were traveling 52 mph or more through the 40 mph speed zone. More than 9,000 vehicles were traveling 56 to 60 mph, and nearly 6,000 were speeding at 61 mph or more.
The new speed camera is expected to help reduce speeds not only near White Oak Middle School, but also to have an impact at St Johns Catholic School, Jackson Road Elementary, the Martin Luther King Recreational Park and Swim Center and Springbrook High School, all of which are located within three-quarters of a mile of the camera.
“Our goal is to do whatever is necessary to slow drivers down to the speed limit and have them pay more attention to the pedestrian traffic around them,” said Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger. “The fixed speed camera at White Oak Middle School will help us create a safety zone in an area that has seen far too many car crashes and pedestrian collisions.”
Fixed pole speed cameras were first installed in Montgomery County in 2007. They have proven to be a deterrent to unsafe driving by reducing speeding. Montgomery County also uses mobile and portable cameras throughout the County in residential areas with speed limits of 35 mph or less or school zones. All locations are marked with “Photo Enforced” signs. A list of the speed enforcement areas is available on the County’s website at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/safespeed.
Leggett also announced that Montgomery County Police will step up traffic safety enforcement around school zones during the first month of school, especially focusing on drivers who do not stop for school buses, run red lights, or ignore other pedestrian and traffic safety laws.
Leggett urged parents to talk with their children about safe walking and safe driving rules and the difference between crossing the street when exiting a school bus compared to a Metro or Ride On bus.
The County has prepared a fact sheet of pedestrian safety tips for parents and kids (see attached) that also includes school bus and transit bus safety information. Children and teens should be reminded that there are different rules for exiting public transit buses, like Ride On and Metrobus, as compared to school buses. When school bus riders exit the bus, they should cross in front of waiting school buses. Passengers exiting Ride On or Metro buses should wait to cross the street until the bus has departed.
For more information on the County’s speed camera program, go to www.montgomerycountymd.gov/safespeed or call Police Media Services at 240-773-5030.
Pedestrian Safety Advice for Children and Parents
Myth: A green light means that it is safe to cross.
Fact: A green light or pedestrian walk signal means that crossing is allowed. But, to be safe before stepping off the curb, first look LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT. When it is safe to cross, continue looking left and right. Be especially alert for vehicles making a right turn on red.
Myth: You are safe in a crosswalk.
Fact: Before crossing in a crosswalk, stop at the curb and check for cars by looking LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT. When it is clear, cross and keep looking left and right.
Myth: If you see the driver, the driver sees you.
Fact: The driver may not see you. Try to make eye contact with the driver. Make certain the driver sees you and stops before you cross in front of the car.
Myth: The driver will stop if you are in a crosswalk, at a green light or have a pedestrian walk signal.
Fact: The driver may not see you. The driver’s view may be blocked. The driver may run a traffic light illegally. The driver may turn without looking for pedestrians. Don’t ever assume a vehicle will stop for you.
Myth: Wearing white at night makes you visible to drivers.
Fact: Even if pedestrians wear white clothes, drivers will have a difficult time seeing them at night. Carry a flashlight. Wear retro-reflective clothing. Walk facing traffic.
The street is a danger zone. Remember, when crossing a street always:
• Walk alertly. Stay off cell phones and don’t text while walking.
• Stop at the edge of parked cars, the curb, or other vehicles.
• Look LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT for moving cars.
• Cross when clear, and keep looking left and right.
• Walk, don’t run or dart, into the street.
• Look for signs that a car is about to move (rear lights, exhaust smoke, sound of motor, wheels turning).
For more information, go to www.montgomerycountymd.gov/walk
Rules of School Bus Safety
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• Be at the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
• When the bus approaches, stand at least three giant steps (six feet) away from the edge of the road, and line up away from the street.
• Wait until the bus stops, the door opens and the driver says that it is okay before entering the bus.
• When crossing the street in front of the bus, walk on the sidewalk or side of the road to a point at least five giant steps (10 feet) ahead of the bus before crossing. Be sure the bus driver can see you, and you can see the driver.
• When exiting the bus, be careful that clothing with drawstrings and book bags with straps do not get caught in the handrail or door.
• Never walk behind the bus.
• Walk at least three giant steps (six feet) away from the side of the bus any time you are walking beside the bus.
• If you drop something near or under the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick it up. The driver may not see you and begin to drive away.
• When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch for children traveling to and from school. It is difficult to predict their actions, so it is your responsibility to be extra cautious.
• Drive slowly. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in the neighborhood.
• Watch for children playing and gathering near school bus stops.
• Be alert. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.
• Learn and obey the school bus laws.
• Learn the flashing light system that school bus drivers use to alert motorists about stopping:
o Yellow flashing lights mean the bus is preparing to stop and load or unload children. Motorists need to slow down and prepare to stop.
o Red flashing lights and an extended stop arm mean the bus has stopped and children are boarding or exiting the bus. Motorists must come to a complete stop a safe distance from the bus and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the arm is retracted, and the bus begins moving before they start driving again.
Rules of Transit Bus Safety
• Never cross the street in front of the bus.
• When getting off the bus, stand away from the curb and wait until the bus leaves the stop.
• When waiting for the bus, stand at the bus stop, away from the curb.
• Never run alongside the bus as it moves away from the stop – the driver can’t see you!
• Cross streets only in designated crosswalks or at intersections.
• Obey all traffic signals.
• Look left-right-left before crossing, and keep watching traffic when crossing.
• Watch out for vehicles because they are not necessarily watching out for you. Don’t take for granted that a driver sees you because you see the vehicle.
• Wear something reflective when it’s dark or raining because you are practically invisible to drivers.
• If you drop something while crossing the street, don’t stop to pick it up.