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Md. superintendent hopes young children will increase pedestrian safety

Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith started on the job in 2016. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

ROCKVILLE, Md. — As local and state officials consider what can be done to improve pedestrian safety, 10 days after four teenagers were hit by a car as they waited for a school bus on Georgia Avenue, the head of public schools says a proven technique is already being used.

Superintendent Jack Smith says the county is using a lesson learned 40 years ago, when society attempted to school adults.

“They tried to teach the adults not to litter, it didn’t work. So, we taught the kids not to litter, and they taught their parents,” said Smith. “So, our goal is to get to every single elementary child this year, with really explicit instruction around using crosswalks.”

Smith said he is speaking with other county officials to better leverage their attempts to improve pedestrian safety, “about things we can do to together to encourage the state to make changes that we see locally are needed.

As WTOP reported, Maryland State Highway Administrator Greg Slater said he is “open to any tool in the toolbox that allows us to improve pedestrian safety.”

Smith told reporters he supports strengthening penalties for drivers who pass a stopped school bus.

“I’m sorry, $250 for a blatant, blatant action,” he asked. “There is no way that you pass a school bus when the arm is down and all the red lights are on, by accident.”

Smith said question of how to keep students safe while walking remains a top concern: “One that strikes fear in the heart of anyone with children, and really any of us, because we all have friends and family. The thought that they would be hit by a car is just really horrifying.”


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