WASHINGTON – Fed up with deaths and injuries along a notorious stretch of road near campus, the president of the University of Maryland is pleading with the community and a state agency for changes that would protect students and pedestrians in College Park.
A call for action in the form of an open letter to the community targets all interested parties: jaywalkers, drunk pedestrians, walkers glued to cell phones and drivers who should slow down and pay better attention.
The letter requests immediate action from the Maryland State Highway Administration and seeks changes to lighting, signage and speed limits along U.S. Route 1 near Knox Road. Along that stretch, pedestrian wrecks have killed two people within the past 10 months.
The most recent fatal crash killed 23-year-old Carlos Pacanins earlier this month. Police said at the time that he didn’t have a walk signal and that alcohol may have played a role in the collision.
In January, 22-year-old Cory Hubbard of west Hampton Beach, N.Y., was killed in a hit-and-run at the same intersection.
“One of the consistent factors – and this is just the facts of the crashes – is we continue to have (alcohol) impaired pedestrians along Route One crossing the road,” says Maryland State Highway Administration Spokesman Dave Buck.
“So that’s partially enforcement, it’s partially engineering to make sure people are crossing at the right locations. But, it is personal responsibility,” Buck tells WTOP.
Road improvements like medians and crosswalk signals that count down won’t happen overnight. But making students aware of the risks and working with local bars and restaurants to encourage those on foot to obey traffic signals can begin sooner, he says.
Pedestrian-safety education campaigns now are underway, according to the letter from university President Wallace Loh.
Loh also says that both campus and Prince George’s County police will be out enforcing traffic laws on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Officers will park at key intersections to slow drivers and will be on the look out for jaywalkers and those who are drunk, even on foot.
In the letter, Loh also includes his contact information and says he welcomes suggestions to make the intersection safer.