After a spike in 2012 that saw multiple fatalities in several accidents, 10 fewer people were killed on Harford County highways last year over the year before.
There were 21 people killed in motor vehicle related accidents in Harford in 2013 compared with 31 deaths in 2012. The county had 23 highway deaths in 2011, 24 in 2010 and 26 in 2009.
Unlike 2012, last year did not include any accidents in which more than one person died. Four accidents in 2012 accounted for 10 deaths, including two in which three people were killed.
Concerned with the spike in fatal accidents in 2012, county police agencies created a new traffic safety task force to pinpoint ways to reduce accidents and likewise ramped up enforcement against speeding and distracted driving. Sheriff Jesse Bane, who called accidents and traffic safety issues a major concern, was behind the creation of the task force.
Edward Hopkins, spokesman for the Harford County Sheriff's Office, said he hopes the reduction in fatal accidents last year means the education efforts by the Sheriff's Office are working.
Most highway fatalities in Harford occur on or near state roads, which are patrolled by Maryland State Police, while the Sheriff's Office investigates accidents on county roads. The police departments in Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace investigate accidents on the streets within their borders.
The causes of the two fatal accidents the Sheriff's Office handled in 2013 included speed, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and weather or bad road conditions, Hopkins said.
In addition, police got another enforcement tool in October, when a new state law took effect making it a primary offense to text or otherwise use a hand held wireless device while driving, meaning police can stop and ticket people they observe texting, without having to stop them for another alleged violation. The fine for a first offense is $83.
The Sheriff's Office's traffic division believes the overall reduction in fatal accidents in the county last year is largely a result of increased enforcement and more public awareness of distracted-driving laws, as well as enforcement of drunk driving, Hopkins said.
The Sheriff's Office made four arrests during a sobriety checkpoint in Joppa in September 2013. Maryland State Police also arrested seven people during a July checkpoint in Fallston.
Multi-faceted reduction effort
"The Sheriff's Office Traffic Unit, along with the Harford County Traffic Task Force, have individually and jointly increased traffic enforcement efforts for all traffic violations," Hopkins explained in an e-mail.
"They have worked hard to raise the public's traffic safety awareness through enforcement, community presentations, sobriety checkpoints, community partnerships and public messaging using a variety of social media messaging platforms," he wrote.
"The Traffic Unit is very hopeful that these messaging and enforcement efforts were successful in 2013 by causing people to think twice about their actions when driving," Hopkins said, adding officials are optimistic the enforcement and messages will keep reducing crashes in 2014.
Hopkins noted the traffic task force chaired by Sheriff Bane set a goal of cutting traffic crashes caused by distracted driving from 1,532 in 2008 to fewer than 1,274 by Dec. 31, 2015, a reduction of 16.8 percent.
In addition to police, the task force includes representatives of agencies such as the county's Office of Drug Control Policy, the State Highway Administration and Harford County Public Schools.
"There is a concerted effort by the above listed agencies to increase enforcement efforts and raise public awareness in an effort to reduce crashes caused by distracted drivers," Hopkins said.
Lt. Matthew Kail, commander the of Maryland State Police Bel Air Barrack, said accidents in general seemed to stay steady even as fatal crashes went down.
"We handle a high volume of crashes in Harford County and we are constantly dealing with that issue," Kail said. "That seems pretty steady."
He said the Barrack did implement a few new initiatives, namely Kids in Safety Seats, to try to keep children safe in the car.
He noted several of the fatal crashes were caused by pedestrian error, while a few were "intersection-related" and in some speed was a factor.
"I can't pinpoint one thing going on. It seemed like it was a variety of things," he said. "There is really no rhyme or reason that I can give you on some of these things."
Five pedestrians killed
The people killed on Harford's roads last year were of many different ages and backgrounds, and the sites of their accidents spanned the county.
Nevertheless, most of the fatal accidents were in more heavily-traveled areas, including the Route 40 corridor and the Bel Air area, including Churchville and Forest Hill.
Five of the 21 who died were pedestrians, including one whom police believe deliberately ran into traffic and one who was killed when she was hit after getting out of her vehicle following a minor fender-bender. A pedestrian was killed in Aberdeen and another in Bel Air, the only fatals inside municipal boundaries last year.
Road and weather conditions appear to have contributed to a handful of crashes, and police identified speeding as the cause in at least two of the crashes and alcohol as contributing to another.
Five fatal crashes involved single vehicles, including one where the driver who was killed had struck a deer while riding a motor scooter. A 2012 fatality also involved a deer.
Given that Harford has had a history of multiple fatal accidents involving motorcycles in any given year, the only one that in the category last year was the deer-related crash involving the motor scooter near the western terminus of the Bel Air Bypass.
Route 40 from Aberdeen to Joppa and I-95 between Belcamp and the Baltimore County line were the most deadly stretches of highway in the county with four fatalities each, last year. There were three fatalities along the Route 1/Bel Air Bypass and two each along Routes 24 and 136.
April, July, November and December were the deadliest months on local roads, with three fatalities in each. Two people died in February, March and June. There were no fatalities in January or September.
The year's first fatal crash occurred on Route 40 near Aberdeen, killing Joseph Rohrbaugh, 25, of Baltimore, on Feb. 2. Rohrbaugh died after he lost control of his 1992 Acura Integra and hit a guardrail, Maryland State Police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
On Feb. 21, Deborah Ann Wimbrough, 58, of the 2500 block of Palmyra Court in Churchville, died in a three-vehicle crash on Route 23 near Grafton Shop Road in Forest Hill. The accident involved a pickup truck, an SUV pulling a horse trailer and fuel delivery truck. The driver of the pickup truck hit the SUV, driven by Wimbrough, while trying to cross Route 23.
Three others were injured in the crash and one person was flown to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in stable condition. Two horses in Mrs. Wimbrough's trailer were also taken from the crash site, and one was later euthanized when its injuries did not respond to treatment.
On March 11, Anila Vadala, 28, of the 4000 block of Locust Street in Philadelphia, died in a two-vehicle accident near Conowingo Dam on Route 1. Vadala was driving a Honda when he collided with a pickup truck traveling south on Route 1 during extremely foggy conditions, Maryland State Police reported at the time.
Consquella Zebley Frieswyk, 56, of Bel Air, was killed on March 13 during a rush-hour accident near Route 24 and Wheel Road. A Rhode Island man driving a 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe collided with a 2012 Subaru Outback, driven by Frieswyk, who was traveling east on Wheel Road.
On April 4, Elizabeth Wald, 19, of the 200 block of Whitefield Court in Churchville, was declared dead at the scene of a crash at Rolling Road and Route 136 while she was driving out of her neighborhood. Wald tried to turn left onto Route 136 and her 2001 Saturn LS was T-boned by a Ford F450 landscaping truck, police said. The driver of the truck was taken to a hospital with minor injuries.
On April 5, Jason D. Ham, 31, of Delta, Pa., was killed in a single vehicle accident on Route 40 in Joppa, after his 2000 Nissan Frontier went off the road for unknown reasons and ended up in a ditch.
On April 9, Jack Franklin Watson, 61, of the 2000 block of Frames Road in Baltimore was killed when he was struck by a 1973 Volkswagen Beetle while walking along Route 7 between Route 152 and Clayton Road in Joppa. Police said Watson appeared to have been under the influence of alcohol when he was killed.
On May 10, Charles Garland Jr., of Whiteford, died in the 2900 block of Dublin Road in a single-vehicle accident.
On June 19, Robert Fulton Kleinhen, 68, of Aberdeen, was killed when the 2007 Vespa Piaggio scooter he was driving collided with a deer on the Bel Air Bypass.
On June 28, Jenna Nicole Pollock, 15, of the 400 block of Ruby Drive in Aberdeen, died in a two-vehicle accident in Belcamp. Three others were injured in the crash.
On July 1, Terrell Allbrook, 21, of Baltimore, died in an accident on I-95 near the Riverside exit. He was driving south when his 2006 Sterling box truck overturned for unknown reasons, Maryland State Police said.
On July 1, William Craig Weaver, 40, of Aberdeen, was killed at the intersection of Routes 543 and 136 in Creswell, when he lost control of his 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier and crashed into a 2010 Volkswagen Passat with four passengers, who were injured.
On July 27, Daniel Kolb, 39, of Abingdon, was killed when he lost control of his Mitsubishi Eclipse on Winters Run Road. The vehicle flipped over and went down an embankment.
On Aug. 16, Michael Wayne Shipe, of Bel Air, died in a three-vehicle accident on I-95 in Joppa.
On Oct. 30, Clifton Lee Patterson, 22, of Durham, N.C., was killed after he ran into traffic, allegedly fleeing police during an Oct. 30 traffic stop on I-95 near the Route 152 exit ramp in Joppa.
On Nov. 13, Robert John Killian, 48, of Bear, Del., died in a four-vehicle crash on I-95 near the Route 22 interchange in Aberdeen.
On Nov. 20, Billy Joe Yingling, 38, of Conowingo, died in a three-vehicle accident on Route 40 near West Shore Drive in Edgewood.
On Nov. 23, an unidentified male pedestrian was killed while walking along Trimble Road in Edgewood.
On Dec. 10, Nora Schleicher, 59, of Baltimore, died after she was struck and killed by a car on the side of Route 40 in Joppa. Police said she was standing on the shoulder of the highway after getting out of her vehicle following a fender-bender.
On Dec. 18, John Kostinko, 69, of Bel Air, was killed after he was hit by a car while walking his dog along Linwood Avenue near his home.
On Dec. 30, Austin Robert Lentz, 20, of Keeneland Court in Forest Hill, was killed after his Ford Mustang crashed into a truck on Route 1 near Reckord Road in Fallston.