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County Urges Pedestrian Safety As Rush Hour Gets Darker

By Aaron Kraut

Monday - 10/28/2013, 11:45am  ET

Pedestrian crosswalk sign on Wisconsin Avenue near Battery LaneWhen daylight savings time ends on Nov. 3, pedestrian collisions are likely to increase in Montgomery County.

The number of pedestrian collisions has typically increased during October, November and December by nearly 40 percent, according to the county. Federal officials say 70 percent of fatal pedestrian accidents happen during night time hours.

On Sunday, Nov. 3, sunset will come before 5 p.m. and edge closer to 4:30 p.m. as the days get shorter. Montgomery County wants to avoid the spike it usually sees when rush hour coincides with sunset.

There were seven pedestrian fatalities in the county in the first quarter of 2013, more than the six in all of 2012. Police have shifted their enforcement strategy to put more focus on drivers, instead of pedestrians crossing without a signal or crosswalk.

Montgomery County wants to make sure lessons learned during a rash of incidents in March aren’t forgotten.

Last week, the regional Street Smart Campaign launched its fall awareness campaign in D.C. Montgomery County averages more than 400 pedestrian collisions a year. Last year, 72 pedestrians and bicyclists were killed in traffic collisions.

“Montgomery County is committed to pedestrian safety, and over the past few years, we have engaged in an aggressive program to reduce collisions through engineering efforts and enhanced enforcement and education,” Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett said. “But we cannot do it all alone. We need drivers to slow down, pay attention and look out for pedestrians. We need pedestrians to be vigilant, on guard and undistracted. We need everyone to be engaged to make sure that crossing the street is not a death defying act.”

The county released a number of common sense tips — some that it has released before — for keeping safe as the days get shorter:

Drivers are urged to help improve pedestrian safety and keep in mind the following:

  • Pedestrians can be nearly invisible in the dark and in bad weather.
  • Pedestrians may be unpredictable. Be aware and be prepared to stop.
  • Slow down and obey the posted speed limits.
  • Don’t drive distracted – when in the car, focus only on driving.
  • Be patient, especially when young children, seniors or persons with disabilities are present.

Pedestrians are urged to do their part by practicing the following safety tips:

  • Remain vigilant when crossing the street.
  • Cross the street at signals, marked crosswalks and intersections. Don’t step off the curb without looking left, right and then left again.
  • Be alert for drivers who aren’t paying attention. Doing everything right – crossing with a walk signal and in the crosswalk – is not enough to guarantee safety.
  • Don’t count on drivers to see you or react in time.
  • Get off the cell phone and stop texting – don’t walk when distracted.
  • Stay visible after dark and in bad weather.