Transportation officials in the metropolitan Washington region warn drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians to be more alert as daylight saving time ends this weekend, bringing darker commuting hours and increased risk for traffic crashes.
Shorter daylight hours in fall and winter typically lead to a spike in crashes involving pedestrians, and safety officials are asking commuters to exercise caution, watch out for each other, and obey traffic laws. In the last 30 days, crashes in the region have resulted in four pedestrian deaths, emphasizing the need for heightened attention.
In the wake of these tragedies, representatives from the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia launched a new Street Smart safety awareness campaign at Old Town Square in the City of Fairfax, Virginia.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2015, 74 percent of pedestrian fatalities nationwide occurred during the dark, dusk-till-dawn hours, with one in four occurring between the hours of 6:00 and 9:00 P.M.
“The time change this weekend means that reduced visibility during the evening rush hour is a real safety concern,” said Chuck Bean, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. “On foot, bike, or behind the wheel, we must all take responsibility for being alert and following traffic laws, for our own safety and for that of others.”
To support the effort, now through December 3, police departments in the region also will be stepping up their efforts to enforce the laws protecting pedestrians and bicyclists.
“Our goal is to save lives,” said Col. Carl Pardiny, Chief of Police, City of Fairfax Police Department. “If a ticket is the reminder you need to follow traffic safety laws, we’ll make sure you get the message.”
Violations can be costly. Fines for violations such as failing to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks and jaywalking can be as much as $500, and drivers can have points added to their driver records.
The Street Smart campaign offers common sense safety tips for all travelers (see below). Learn more about Street Smart at BeStreetSmart.net and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/COGStreetSmart.
Street Smart Safety Tips
If you’re driving…
- Slow down and obey the speed limit.
- Stop for pedestrians at crosswalks.
- Be careful when passing buses or stopped vehicles.
- When turning, yield to people walking and biking.
- Look for bicyclists before opening your door.
- Allow at least three feet when passing bikes.
- Avoid using your cell phone and never text while driving.
If you’re walking…
- Cross the street at the corner and use marked crosswalks when they’re available.
- Use the pushbuttons.
- Wait for the walk signal to cross the street.
- Watch for turning vehicles.
- Before crossing, look left, right, and left again.
- Be visible. Wear something light or reflective after dark.
- Watch out for blind spots around trucks and buses.
- Avoid using your cell phone while you’re crossing the street.
- On an off-street trail, obey all posted signage and approach intersections with caution.
If you’re biking…
- Obey signs and signals.
- Never ride against traffic.
- Ride in a straight line at least three feet from parked cars.
- Use hand signals to tell drivers what you intend to do.
- Wear a helmet.
- Use lights at night and when visibility is poor.
- On an off-street trail, obey all posted signs and approach intersections with caution.
Laws and regulations differ between jurisdictions. Visit BeStreetSmart.net
for information on specific trail guidelines and regulations.
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