Twenty-two pedestrians died after being hit by cars in Baltimore County in 2013 — that's a five year high, and officials say the county is on pace to match it this year.
Trying to lower those numbers, county officials Thursday launched a "Heads Up! Walk Safe" campaign, urging pedestrians to obey traffic laws and be more cognizant of their surroundings while walking and biking. Pedestrians are at fault in 80 percent of crashes, officials said.
"This past year, 2013, we had more fatal pedestrian crashes in Baltimore County than in the five years prior," said County Executive Kevin Kamenetz during a news conference.
Baltimore County responds to about 420 pedestrian-vehicle crashes every year, officials said. Eleven pedestrians have died thus far this year. Officials said 19 pedestrians died in 2008; 21 in 2009; 14 in 2010; 18 in 2011; and 14 in 2012.
Throughout Maryland, 95 pedestrians died in 2012 in crashes, according to figures from the Baltimore Metropolitan Council. Figures for 2013 were not available.
"What's changing is the amount of people that are suffering serious injury or who are killed," said Police Chief James W. Johnson.
Johnson said increased enforcement will be part of the county's campaign. He said people involved in accidents are often distracted listening to headphones, talking or texting on their cellphone, or not using crosswalks. He said the majority of those injured are not children — 60 percent are 40 or older.
Among the most deadly locations for pedestrians have been busy roads with higher speed limits, officials said, such as Liberty Road in Randallstown, York Road in Towson and Merritt Boulevard in Dundalk.
Often areas around bus stops are dangerous because people are not paying attention to traffic and are more concerned about catching their bus, officials said.
"These incidents take a toll on every family involved. They also take a toll on our emergency responders," said Fire Chief John J. Hohman, who recalled when he was on a medical unit that responded to an accident involving a small girl who had to be rushed to the hospital.
"Those things you don't ever, ever forget," he said.
Officials advise pedestrians to pay attention to traffic signals, use crosswalks or intersections, make eye contact with drivers and avoid wearing dark clothing.
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