Maryland lawmakers highlight rise in pedestrian deaths at site of fatal crash

In Wheaton, Maryland, county and state lawmakers gathered at the site on Veirs Mill Road where a 59-year-old woman was struck and killed by a vehicle as she was crossing the street in January. They hope to bring attention to the rising number of pedestrian deaths taking place in the region.

Last year, Montgomery County saw 40 pedestrian and bicyclist incidents. Only six weeks into 2022, and the county has already seen 50 incidents and two deaths.

Vision Zero gathering
Crowd gathers at the site where a 59-year-old woman was fatally struck by a vehicle on Veirs Mill Road in Wheaton, MD. (Photo WTOP/Acacia James)

“In 2022, we’ve already had two people killed and 50 incidents, just six weeks into this new year,” said Montgomery County Council Vice President Evan Glass, who holds these events annually to highlight the importance of “Vision Zero” programs to reduce roadway injuries and deaths.

Vision Zero is a nationwide initiative that encourages local policies “designed to eliminate serious and fatal collisions” involving pedestrians.

sign displays the names of the ten pedestrians killed in auto incidents
A sign displays the names of the ten pedestrians killed in auto incidents in Montgomery County in 2021. (Photo WTOP/Acacia James)

“Montgomery County’s Vision Zero initiative calls for eliminating serious and fatal collisions on County roads for drivers, passengers, pedestrians and bicyclists by 2030,”  according to a news release from the county government.

Glass said that the Latino community makes up 41% of the Veirs Mill corridor in Wheaton and, because a great many are dependent on public transportation and public streets, the lack of safety for sidewalks and crossing areas is actually an equity issue.

“Here in Montgomery County, those who we lose on our roadways because of road violence are overwhelmingly individuals who come from communities of color,” Glass said.

“It is an example of how our historic and systemic inequities manifest themselves into transportation policies today,” Glass said.

Glass said next week the Montgomery County Council will take up a bill which would require the county to shovel 40 miles of sidewalks in an effort to keep them usable for those who need them.

Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, who was at Saturday’s event, said it will take serious investments to fix the dangers that pedestrians face.

“I’m proud that we finally got a $1 trillion infrastructure package through the Congress for our roads and our highways for pedestrians,” Raskin said.

National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy told the gathering that the rise in traffic deaths and injuries is a systemic failure.

“Which is why the NTSB is so adamant on addressing this through a safe system approach. Addressing this through safe roads, ensuring that our roads are designed for those who use it. Not just the cars, not just the drivers — those that are walking those that are biking, those that are rolling,” Homendy said.

She called for people across the nation to come together and address this issue.

“This is a public health crisis and I’m pleased that federal, state and local leaders are gathering together to address this. This is what we need across our country — we need health officials, we need communities, we need religious leaders, we need advocates,” Homendy said.

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