An analysis at a May 8 CountyStat review of Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett’s Pedestrian Safety Initiative showed that County efforts to improve pedestrian safety are having a positive effect. In 2012, the most severe collisions resulting in debilitating injury (Level 4) or death (Level 5) decreased by 20 percent and fatalities dropped to an all-time low of 0.6 per 100,000 people. This fatality rate is one of the lowest in the nation according to 2011 national data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The reductions in collisions are most notable in areas around schools improved under the Safe Routes to Schools program, the County’s High Incidence Areas (locations targeted as having the highest density of collisions) and locations where traffic calming measures have been completed.
“In 2007, my Pedestrian Safety Initiative outlined a blueprint for reducing pedestrian collisions in Montgomery County, and I am gratified that the plan appears to be working,” said Leggett. “Through engineering, education and enforcement, as well as a broad partnership between residents, County departments and agencies, and the State Highway Administration, the severity of collisions are trending downward, particularly in the areas that need the most help. Targeted interventions really can make a difference in reducing the number of pedestrians who are injured or killed.”
Under the Safe Routes to School program, pedestrian safety improvements are made at elementary and middle schools. Since 2005, over 160 schools have undergone comprehensive school zone traffic safety assessments and improvements. An analysis of schools with three years of post-improvement data indicates that the collision rate within a quarter-mile radius of these schools has declined from 1.45 to .21 incidents per year – an 85 percent reduction in pedestrian collisions.
From 2011 to 2012, total pedestrian collisions in the County increased by 24 (399 to 423), all of which were attributed to an increase in collisions in private parking lots and garages. During that period, parking lot/garage collisions increased by 31 collisions, a 34 percent increase.
The 121 collisions that occurred in parking facilities represented 29 percent of the 423 pedestrian collisions in 2012. While none of these parking lot collisions were fatal, 19 percent resulted in debilitating injuries (Level 4). Countywide, 20 percent of all pedestrian collisions resulted in debilitating injuries or death. The County is now developing a plan to reduce pedestrian collisions in parking lots.
Another major finding at CountyStat is that drivers are increasingly at fault in pedestrian collisions. Historically, drivers and pedestrians have been equally at fault. But in 2012, drivers were found at fault 59 percent of the time while pedestrians were at fault only 35 percent of the time (with six percent undetermined or both drivers and pedestrians being at fault).
Since the first High Incidence Areas (HIAs) safety audit was conducted on Piney Branch Road in 2008, collisions in HIAs have declined more than 37 percent. Still, collisions in HIAs comprised seven percent of total pedestrian collisions in 2012 although they are only one percent of roadways countywide.
Ten specific road corridors have undergone safety audits to identify ways to improve pedestrian safety that include targeted engineering, enforcement and education that are yielding results with significant declines in collisions. The road corridors are: portions of Piney Branch Road, Wisconsin Avenue, Georgia Avenue, Rockville Pike, Four Corners, Reedie Drive, Randolph Road, Colesville Road, Connecticut Avenue and Old Georgetown Road. Most of these areas are along State roads, so the County and the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) are working as partners to improve pedestrian safety.
Improving pedestrian safety in HIAs takes time and continues incrementally. Pedestrian projects recommended through the audit process cannot all be implemented at once. The range, cost and coordination required to implement the HIA engineering improvements means that they are being completed in stages over several years. This staged process also allows the County to leverage State projects, such as resurfacing, to more cost effectively complete needed changes.
Since July, 2012, the County has constructed 3.6 miles of new sidewalks; reconstructed 3.1 miles of old sidewalk and 140 ramps to meet ADA specifications; and constructed 116 concrete bus stop pads with connecting sidewalks.
While the CountyStat analysis of 2012 pedestrian collisions reveals significant progress, more work remains to be done. Preliminary data indicates an increase in the number of pedestrian collisions and fatalities in the first quarter of 2013, with seven pedestrian fatalities in 2013, compared with a total for all of 2012 of six. Nationally, pedestrian collisions have also increased. This uptick illustrates that the work of the Pedestrian Initiative is not done and the difficulty in trying to curb pedestrian collisions that often result from split second decisions made by drivers or pedestrians.
CountyStat conducts periodic reviews of the components of the Pedestrian Safety Initiative that have played a critical and valuable role in the program. By analyzing data about the strategies being used to improve pedestrian safety, vital information is obtained on the most efficient ways to target resources to reduce the pedestrian collisions in the County.
The full CountyStat presentation is available on the County’s website.
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