Between now and mid-May, motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists throughout the region will hear and see reminders about how to stay safe and avoid traffic accidents as warmer spring weather and longer daylight hours bring more people out on foot and on bicycles.
The Transportation Planning Board's semi-annual "Street Smart" campaign, held every spring and fall, combines mass marketing messages with increased enforcement of traffic safety laws to raise awareness of bicycle and pedestrian safety.
This spring's campaign is using both outdoor advertising -- mainly on bus shelters and the sides and backs of buses -- and sponsorships of traffic reports on area radio stations to reach key audiences.
Some of those radio stations will also partner with local law enforcement to hold on-the-ground safety events to reach out to people in areas with higher-than-normal accident rates. The events will include safety promotions and giveaways, distribution of printed educational materials, and stepped-up, on-the-spot enforcement of traffic laws.
On April 9, several local elected officials and law enforcement personnel gathered in the District of Columbia at Starburst Plaza -- the intersection of H Street NE, Bladensburg Road NE, Benning Road NE, and Maryland Avenue NE -- to kick off this spring's campaign.
District Mayor Vincent Gray speaks at the kick-off for the Spring 2013
"Street Smart" campaign in Northeast Washington on Apr. 9, 2013.
The busy intersection, which the District reconfigured a few years ago to improve pedestrian safety and accommodate new streetcar tracks, has historically been the site of numerous traffic accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists.
At the kick-off event, officials unveiled the marketing concept for this year's campaign -- "tired faces" -- which features individuals whose faces have been symbolically blemished by a tire tread as a way to call attention to the dangers confronting pedestrians and bicyclists.
The outdoor marketing materials will combine these images of individuals with key safety messages aimed at reminding motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists alike to be on the look-out for one another and to take steps to reduce the likelihood of accidents.
Street Smart began eleven years ago, in 2002, as a cooperative effort by local, state, and federal agencies to reduce the number of bicyclist and pedestrian injuries and deaths in the Washington region. Though the number of motorists and vehicle passengers killed in traffic accidents has been declining since the early 2000s, the number of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities has remained relatively constant.
According to recent data collected by the TPB, however, the number of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities in 2012 declined markedly from the year before, from 85 to 70. But not all jurisdictions in the region saw such a drop. While the numbers of fatalities in Montgomery County and the District of Columbia have reached all-time lows, the numbers in some of the region's outer jurisdictions have increased.
As it enters its eleventh year, the Street Smart program is now a truly regional one, as all 22 of the local jurisdictions that belong to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which helps support the program, now contribute to Street Smart. In the past, the program relied mainly on federal funds made available through various state agencies and on voluntary contributions from a handful of local jurisdictions.
The next Street Smart campaign is scheduled to occur in November 2013, when more motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists will be commuting home or otherwise traveling in the glare of the setting sun or after dark thanks to the earlier sunsets that accompany both the end of Daylight Saving Time and the start of winter. But, for now, Street Smart will focus on raising awareness as the warmer spring weather and longer daylight hours mean more people will be taking to sidewalks and bike lanes for their daily commute, to run errands, or for exercise or recreation.