As the number of pedestrian deaths and injuries in Wheaton and Montgomery County continues to increase, local police and officials have announced measures to improve public safety.
Since the start of 2013, five pedestrians and one bicyclist have died as a result of a collision with an automobile in Montgomery County. Two of those accidents occurred in the Wheaton area- one on Georgia Avenue and one on Connecticut Avenue.
No one can seem to agree, however, whether the fault lies with drivers or with pedestrians themselves.
Community activists say that the high rate of accidents is proof that the county has not taken enough steps to protect pedestrians. The blog Another Day in Wheaton wrote that the high speed of cars driving on Georgia Avenue through town is primarily responsible for the fatal collisions. According to the blog post, “We need some speed limit enforcement on Georgia at least from Silver Spring downtown north through Aspen Hill. Drivers should also be pulled over and cited by police for not yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks.”
What started as message board material has caught on in both the local and national political scene. Politicians from Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro to United States Representative Chris Van Hollen have started to address the issue.
Van Hollen, who represents Wheaton and most of Montgomery County, was one of 68 congressmen to sign a letter addressed to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that called for more action to protect pedestrians and cyclists.
Jose Lopez, of Wheaton, said that while pedestrians should be careful when crossing the street, the majority of the blame lies with drivers.
“Especially in downtown Wheaton, near the Metro station, people rarely look for pedestrians,” he said. “Even at crosswalks, you have to be careful because someone will drive by quickly without looking. That’s a location where drivers should always be more careful.”
There are nine traffic cameras located in the Wheaton/Glenmont area, put in place to prevent people from speeding and protect drivers and pedestrians alike.
Others, however, place the blame with pedestrians who do not pay attention to their surroundings.
“I’d say it’s more the fault of the people crossing the street wherever,” said Melvin Kamara. “The police should take more preventive measures to prevent people from jaywalking.”
Wheaton does have one pedestrian bridge crossing Veirs Mill Road near the Metro station, but Kamara said that it is not utilized enough.
“I’ve seen people just try to run across the street instead of going up the stairs and straight to the garage,” he said.
Last week, Montgomery County Police finally addressed the rising number of accidents, although in a way that will not please all pedestrians. The county announced on its Facebook page that it is participating in Street Smart, a two-week step up in enforcement of pedestrian safety laws.
The regional program seeks to improve pedestrian safety by increasing enforcement and public awareness. As part of the program, police will be instructed to give more tickets to drivers who do not stop for pedestrians or to pedestrians caught jaywalking.
- Fatal Accidents in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties
- Fatal Accidents and Traffic Cameras
- Speed Camera Locations in Montgomery County