Vehicle parts are strewn across all of the South bound lanes of Rt. 24 after a fatal crash at the intersection of Rt. 24 and Ring Factory Road in Bel Air.
Vehicle parts are strewn across all of the South bound lanes of Rt. 24 after a fatal crash at the intersection of Rt. 24 and Ring Factory Road in Bel Air. (Matt Button / The Aegis / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Last year, 511 people died in crashes in Maryland — an 8.5% decrease in traffic fatalities from the previous year, state transportation officials announced Wednesday.

The total number of deaths on the roadway in 2018 also was lower than in 2016, when 522 people died on roads in the state, according to Jim Ports, Maryland’s deputy transportation secretary.

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“While this decrease in fatalities is a step in the right direction, 511 people were taken from their families, friends and communities,” Ports said in a statement. “Every death on our roadways is preventable.”

Off-duty Baltimore officer struck on I-83 while assisting separate crash, police say

An off-duty police offer was struck on Interstate 83 North while assisting others who were in a traffic accident.

Not wearing a seat belt, driving impaired or distracted, and speeding were the top causes of crash fatalities.

Pedestrians and bicyclists remain the most vulnerable people on the roadways. The number of pedestrians killed in traffic rose to 133 last year from 117 in the prior year, a nearly 14% increase. Six bicyclists died in collisions in 2018, a 45% drop from the 11 who died in 2017.

Maryland officials have a five-year plan to cut the number of traffic fatalities and serious injuries in half by 2030.

The Toward Zero Deaths plan, which focuses on improved driver education, road engineering, traffic enforcement and emergency medical services, seeks to address aggressive, impaired and distracted driving, as well as highway infrastructure, seat belt use, and pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

The main points of the state’s campaign are as follows:

  • Buckle Up
  • Slow Down
  • Avoid Distractions (such as cellphones)
  • Drive Sober
  • Use Crosswalks — and when driving, look out for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists

Relief for drivers on Baltimore-Washington Parkway: Speed limit rises as potholes are repaired

The speed limit along parts of the Baltimore Washington Parkway in Maryland returned to 55 mph after it had been dropped to deal with a large number of potholes

“It is important that we look beyond the numbers; these are lives lost and countless injuries and years of trauma because of dangerous and selfish decisions,” said Christine Nizer, head of the Motor Vehicle Administration, who also serves as Gov. Larry Hogan’s highway safety representative. “Being a safe and responsible traveler is an action each person can take every time they get in a vehicle.”

Informing people that their family members have been killed in a crash is one of the most difficult responsibilities of being a police officer, said Maryland Transportation Authority Police Chief Col. Jerry Jones.

“We write tickets hoping to keep you from getting that knock on your door,” Jones said.

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