Marylanders admit to having some potentially deadly habits behind the wheel, and those habits took a lot of lives last year.
In 2021, there were 557 roadway fatalities in Maryland. While that number is down 2.8% from 2020, state officials say it is still not good news.
“Tragically, we lost 377 drivers, 80 passengers, 129 pedestrians and bicyclists,” said James F. Ports Jr., the secretary of Maryland’s Transportation Department.
“These are not just numbers. These are not just statistics. They are people. They’re our family members, our friends, our community members.”
This year, there have already been 134 roadway fatalities in Maryland.
A Road Safety Attitudes and Behavior Survey conducted for the Maryland Highway Safety Office showed the majority of Marylanders — 93 percent — think unsafe driving is a major problem.
The bigger problem may be what they are — or aren’t — doing about it.
“Many appear to be talking the talk but not walking the walk,” said Chrissy Nizer, administrator for the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration. “Distracted driving contributed to more than a third of motor vehicle fatalities in Maryland, and nearly half of the respondents surveyed admitted engaging in distracted driving behaviors while behind the wheel.”
Over the past five years in Maryland, 800 people have been killed in crashes involving an impaired driver. In the survey, more than 3% of those questioned admitted to driving impaired over the last month.
The survey also found many drivers have lead feet.
“About 41% of respondents admitted to frequently or sometimes driving 15 mph or more over the speed limit on a highway,” Nizer said, “And 75% admitted to driving 10 mph or more over the speed limit on a residential street in just the past 30 days.”
She also said there’s been more speeding since the beginning of the pandemic: 25% of the fatalities in 2021 were pedestrians. The survey showed that while more than half the pedestrians questioned didn’t feel comfortable crossing roads, only 37% always use a crosswalk.
“Traffic crashes are as big a threat to public safety as guns and violence,” said Maryland’s state police superintendent, Col. Woodrow Jones III. “Causes of the majority of fatalities continue to be no secret: Impaired driving, speeding, distracted driving, aggressive driving, failure to wear a seatbelt and not using crosswalks continue to be the actions that lead to tragedies on our roads.”
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and Jones said Maryland State Police will have extra eyes on patrol watching for, and stopping, distracted drivers, thanks to funding from the Maryland Department of Transportation Highway Safety Office.