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Montgomery County mom speaks out about road safety

Tuesday - 10/22/2013, 5:01pm  ET

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Pedestrian safety coordinator for the Montgomery County Department of Transportation Jeff Dunckel speaks about autumn road safety at Upper Senate Park on Capitol Hill Tuesday. Police throughout the D.C. region will begin fall safety enforcement Oct. 28. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

WASHINGTON - Last year, 72 pedestrians and cyclists were killed on area roads. And there's an effort to reverse the trend.

Jeff Dunckel is the pedestrian safety coordinator for the Montgomery County Department of Transportation.

"The sad truth is that each of these deaths could have been prevented. They should have been prevented," Dunckel said speaking at the kickoff of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government's Street Smart fall public safety campaign.

Dunckel explains why the emphasis on safety comes in the fall.

"In Montgomery County, our data indicates that pedestrian crashes increase nearly 40 percent in the last three months of the year."

Gwendolyn Ward of Germantown, knows that all too well. Her 15 year old daughter, Christina Morris-Ward, was killed last year this month.

"What parent would think that their child would be killed while doing something so routine. Really? Walking to school?" Ward says.

But that's exactly what happened. Christina, the girl who dreamed of becoming a pediatrician, was headed to Seneca Valley High School just before 7 in the morning, when she was struck and killed by a car as she crossed Germantown Road (Route 118), a major commuter route. The driver had a green light and was not cited.

Christina was dressed in dark clothing and reportedly had on head phones as she walked to school.

"I miss her so, so much" says Ward, who has become an advocate for safer streets for everyone, not just pedestrians.

At the Street Smart event in Upper Senate Park on Capitol Hill, Ward urged the audience "whether you're walking or riding a bike or driving a car, I beg you to be more alert. Pay more attention to your surroundings. Observe and obey the traffic safety signals."

It's been less than a year since Christina's death, but her mom says it helps her to be an advocate.

"I'll be doing this for a long, long time because I don't want it to happen to anyone else's family," Ward says.

The Street Smart fall safety campaign includes an effort by police departments in D.C., Virginia and Maryland to crack down on traffic violations of all kinds. Police say from Oct. 28 through Nov. 24, they'll be working harder to make sure that pedestrians, cyclists and drivers obey the rules of the road.

You can find safety tips and more information about the campaign at BeStreetSmart.net.

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