Educating motorists and pedestrians, enforcing traffic laws and better engineering of vehicles and roadways are just some of the solutions regional leaders are proposing to help improve pedestrian safety in the National Capital Region. Over 200 area officials, transportation planners, law enforcement officers and community activists gathered to discuss solutions to the pedestrian safety issue at a regional workshop sponsored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro), AAA, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)
Working together in a series of sessions, attendees called for continued, aggressive public outreach messages—such as this year’s Street Smart campaign—improved communication with the region’s non-English speaking population, and enhanced early childhood education on the issue. Participants also recommended better placement of bus stops throughout the region and creating performance standards for planners to measure walking and bicycling trips. On the topic of enforcement, participants asked for consistent traffic laws across jurisdictional lines, traffic units dedicated to enforcing pedestrian safety laws, and more community policing.
“To be successful in ensuring pedestrian safety, there can’t be separate solutions for the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia—we need a regional solution,” said Emeka Moneme, Director of DDOT. “We must continue and strengthen the Street Smart public outreach campaign.”
Sponsored by COG and the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB), Street Smart uses creative radio advertising in English and Spanish to reach drivers, and targets pedestrians through outdoor and transit advertising. To further spread awareness and educate drivers and pedestrians, law enforcement distributes handouts and tip cards. When Street Smart was launched, it was a once-a-year effort; today, it has expanded with both spring and fall campaigns.
"With more than 1.2 million riders each weekday, Metro is a huge generator of pedestrians across the region,” said Arlington County Board Member Chris Zimmerman, who also chairs the Metro Board. “The safety of our customers while they are traveling to and from our buses and rail stations is a huge concern.”
Metro instituted an authority-wide safety improvement program that should reduce accidents and injuries by half in five years. It installed special warning lights on 125 Metrobuses operating in the District of Columbia to make the buses more visible to pedestrians and motorists. Bus operators are now required to undergo extensive pedestrian safety training, and bus street supervisors are equipped with radar guns so they can monitor the speed of buses.
“Pedestrians account for fully 20 percent of individuals killed on the roads in the Washington region, and as our population continues to grow, we will have more pedestrians and heavier traffic congestion.” said Fairfax County Supervisor Penelope Gross, who also serves as COG vice chair.
According to statistics by Inova Regional Trauma Center, a pedestrian is killed in the Washington region every 4.4 days, and an average of 5.6 pedestrians are injured every day. Approximately 2,300 pedestrians are injured every year in the Washington region, and 84 are killed.
"We all have a role to play in the regional effort to make traveling in the Washington metropolitan area as safe as possible,” said John Catoe, Metro General Manager. “Metro and our partners at COG, the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia are committed to making sure that area streets are safe for pedestrians and motorists.”
For more information on Street Smart: http://www.bestreetsmart.net/