Drivers encouraged to be more aware as pedestrian deaths rise

Pointing to rising pedestrian and bicyclist deaths in the D.C. region, local leaders encouraged drivers to be aware of the growing problem and pay more attention while behind the wheel.

“We put crosswalks in and drivers kill people in the crosswalk,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. “It really is up to our residents to take responsibility.”

Some of the most common factors contributing to such crashes include speed, distractions and alcohol.

Pedestrian and bicyclist deaths in the region were up 37% in 2022 when compared to the previous year, according to figures from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, a nonprofit made up of elected officials in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

The group launched a campaign called “Street Smart” on Thursday, which is an effort to raise awareness. The campaign runs through May 14, alongside increased enforcement of traffic safety laws that protect people walking and biking in the District, suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia.

More law enforcement officials will be out ticketing drivers who disobey the speed limit or fail to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.

“I’ve watched people drive down the road and blow through every single stop sign, and it just can’t go on,” said Elrich.

Rebekah Young is a living example of what can happen when drivers are not aware of their surroundings. She was struck and seriously injured by an SUV while she was in a crosswalk near her home in Alexandria, Virginia, in 2018.

“Witnesses said that I was pulled underneath the vehicle and dragged out the back, eventually resting about 50 feet from the crosswalk,” Young said.

She broke nearly 30 bones.

“This was an incredibly painful time,” said Young. “It’s not a stretch to say that my injuries were life-threatening.”

Young said the crash changed her life in ways that still affect her today.

“Broken bones heal pretty well on their own, but the emotional scars linger on,” Young said. “I’ve really lost the confidence to navigate through my community with the same sense of security.”

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Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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