Police urge drivers to slow down, save a life (VIDEO)

WASHINGTON – Speed kills.

The message from police, transportation officials and emergency medical doctors is stark and simple. At 25 miles an hour, a driver has a good chance of stopping before striking a pedestrian. But put a little more pressure on that accelerator, and you could end up taking a life.

As part of the “Smooth Operator” safe driving campaign, D.C., Montgomery County and the Maryland State Police gathered with transportation officials from the District and Maryland to reinforce that message for drivers.

“If you drive too fast, follow too closely, fail to yield the right of way, or run stop lights or stop signs, your actions put lives at risk,” says Thomas Gianni, chief of the Maryland Highway Safety Office.

Dr. Jack Sava, director of trauma services at Washington Hospital Center, says a large portion of his patients come to him as a direct result of fast, aggressive, impaired or distracted driving. He describes the nightmare of having to take a family member into a room and break the news: that their loved one didn’t survive.

“Some people roll on the floor and scream, some people pass out, some people throw chairs.” Sava says an entire course at Washington Hospital Center is devoted to teaching staff how to break tragic news to the families of those killed on the road. “And it never gets any easier.”

The demonstration was part of the Smooth Operator public safety campaign, which targets aggressive driving. Speed is cited as the primary factor in aggressive driving behavior. More than 50 law enforcement agencies in the region participate in the program. So far this year, 52,093 citations for aggressive driving have been issued. In 2012, nearly 400,000 citations were issued.

EDITORS NOTE: The footage you see comes courtesy of Smooth Operator. The car and the dummy were outfitted with cameras to record the images you see. The first near-miss is at 25 mph on wet pavement. The second, at 35 mph, resulted in a collision. The demo team had hoped to show a 45 mph crash, but the wet pavement made that too hazardous. The site of the demo was in the 500 block of New York Avenue NW near the Metropolitan Police Department station.

From the driver’s perspective:

From the pedestrian’s perspective:

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @kateryanWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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