Pedestrian Safety: An Urgent Matter in Maryland

Exclusive for Baltimore County Breaking News
By Rus VanWestervelt (@rusvw13, rus@bcobreakingnews.com)

I’ve been working with Baltimore County Breaking News for more than two years now, and we’ve covered a lot of tragic events during that time. It’s been heartbreaking to be the dispatcher sharing the news with our followers, or the writer providing the follow-up story that offers the tragic loss of human life. I’ve seen it from both sides; it was just as heartbreaking when other news agencies shared the details of my own brother’s death in a motorcycle accident in Carroll County.

The injury, or loss, of any life is tough, but when it’s senselessly brought on by the mindless ignorance of drivers or pedestrians, and the breaking of common-sense laws, it infuriates all of us even more.

One of the most abused laws in Maryland involves pedestrian traffic.

The stats are clear that we have an urgent need to address this issue more aggressively. In 2012, Maryland was rated as the seventh most dangerous state in the United States for pedestrians (Florida was the worst, with Delaware, Arizona, South Carolina, Hawaii, and North Carolina named 2-6, respectively).

And, according to recent statistics provided by multiple sources (including the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, the Maryland State Highway Administration, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), Maryland has seen, on average, about 100 pedestrian deaths each year in the last two decades (about 20% of all road-related deaths annually). Shockingly, the number of children ages 5-9 killed as pedestrians comprised 14% of all pedestrian crashes in 1998.

Annually, up to 70% of these deaths are related to pedestrian error; however, many injuries and deaths occur with pedestrians lawfully in crosswalks at intersections or in mid-block (when a crosswalk is placed in the middle of a street).

Drivers Must Follow Maryland Laws

Maryland law is clear when it comes to yielding the right-of-way to pedestrians (as summarized by the Montgomery County Government).

  • A driver of a vehicle must come to a complete stop when a pedestrian is crossing the roadway in a crosswalk.
  • It is unlawful for a driver to pass a vehicle that is stopped for a pedestrian in either a marked or unmarked crosswalk. This includes in shopping centers, especially in front of busy stores where there is high foot traffic.
  • Vehicles facing a green signal, including any vehicle turning right or left, must yield right-of-way to any pedestrian lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk.
  • Vehicles facing a red signal or red arrow signal must stop at the intersection at the clearly marked stop line or before entering the crosswalk.
  • The driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian, shall warn any pedestrian by sounding a horn, and shall exercise proper precaution on observing any confused or incapacitated pedestrians.
  • The driver of a vehicle shall drive at an appropriate reduced speed when any special danger exists as to pedestrians.

Pedestrians Share The Responsibility For Safety

Pedestrians need to be smart about how they walk alongside, or cross, roads.

  • A pedestrian facing a steady red traffic signal may not enter the roadway.
  • A pedestrian may not start to cross the roadway in the direction of a solid “don’t walk” or “upraised hand” signal.
  • If a pedestrian crosses a roadway at any point other than in a marked crosswalk or in an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, the pedestrian shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle.
  • In an intersection where a traffic control signal is in operation, a pedestrian may cross only in a marked crosswalk.
  • A pedestrian may not cross an intersection diagonally unless authorized by a traffic control device.
  • Where a sidewalk is provided, a pedestrian may not walk along or on an adjacent roadway.  Where no sidewalk is provided, a pedestrian may walk only on the left shoulder or on the left side of the roadway facing traffic.

Baltimore County Police Encourage Education In Pedestrian Safety

In addition to these laws, The Baltimore County Police Department provides these simple reminders for parents to speak with their children about pedestrian safety.

  • Always cross at traffic lights, marked crosswalks or intersections.
  • Obey traffic signals at all times. Don’t attempt to cross if the signal tells you to stop.
  • Stay alert when crossing. Even when the signal says WALK, you should check that the path is clear.
  • Always check in all directions for approaching vehicles before crossing the street. If there is a vehicle approaching, wait until it passes before trying to cross.
  • Try to make eye contact with drivers before stepping off the curb.
  • Walk on the sidewalk whenever possible. If there is no sidewalk, walk on the side of the road, facing traffic.
  • Wear bright or reflective clothing at night.
  • Avoid distraction when crossing. Turn off headphones and put away your cell phone before crossing.

The Baltimore County Breaking News Team would love nothing more than to report that Maryland has become the safest place in the United States for pedestrians. Let us each do our part — as drivers and as walkers — in ensuring that everyone reaches their destinations safely.

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