Alarmed by an increase in the number of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths and injuries, Montgomery County residents and leaders gathered for a town hall Saturday morning to discuss road safety. And it didn’t take long before the session’s importance was underscored by another incident.
“In the 15 minutes since we’ve started this conversation, someone was struck,” Councilman Evan Glass, who organized the event, told the assembly about the latest pedestrian crash. A person was seriously injured after being struck on Georgia Avenue at Plyers Mill Road in Wheaton, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services.
The town hall-style meeting comes on the heels of a Friday crash in which a 17-year-old senior at Walter Johnson High School was hit while crossing the street to board a school bus and a Thursday afternoon crash where a 9-year-old Bradley Hills Elementary School student was killed when she was hit by a school bus.
“I am scared all the time no matter if I’m driving, biking or walking,” said Rockville resident Tracy Threefoot. “Cars think they’re first so they’re speeding, a lot of bicyclists don’t always follow the rules. Everybody is guilty of something, pedestrians too.”
The number of fatal road crashes has been trending downward the past several years, but this year there’s been an uptick.
“In 2019, there have been 14 deaths on our roadways and nearly 600 incidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists,” Glass said.
The county averages about 20,000 road crashes each year, with 3,000 of those involving injury, according to Cpt. Thomas Didone, director of Montgomery County Police Traffic Division. He said there have been 32 road fatalities so far this year in the county.
“Lives matter,” said Didone, whose 15-year-old son Ryan was killed in a 2008 crash. “Someone loves them, someone cares about them.”
Didone told the gathering it’s important to consider all factors in fatal road crashes, including those involving pedestrians and bicyclists.
“Speed is a factor, distracted driving is a factor, alcohol use is a factor, not wearing your seat belt is a factor,” Didone said, adding that walkers and bicyclists also share responsibility for road safety. “Wearing dark clothing at night; crossing [without] watching for vehicles; crossing with your cell phone in your hand are factors.”
County leaders implored drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists to make safety the highest priority.
“We need drivers to slow down and keep their eyes on the road,” Glass said. “We need to look up from our phones, lower or turn off the volume on our earbuds and be aware of our surroundings.”