Statewide, there have been at least four fatal pedestrian crashes in the month of October that are now being investigated by Maryland State Police — including three this week alone. Fortunately, none of these crashes have occurred in our community, but it’s a good opportunity to remind pedestrians and motorists to be on the lookout for each other.
Between 2013 and 2017, on average there were 111 pedestrians killed and 3,058 injured each year in pedestrian-related crashes in Maryland, according to the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Highway Safety Office. Nationally, the number of pedestrian crashes has been on the rise incrementally over the past four years for which data is available, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. There were 5,987 pedestrian fatalities reported nationwide in 2016.
Carroll County isn’t the most walkable community, especially among major highways like state routes 140, 97, 32, 27 and 26. Still, it isn’t unusual to see individuals walking to work along these busy roads and, on occasion, see someone attempt to cross them. It’s a dangerous undertaking, and something we would discourage residents to avoid altogether if possible, although we recognize in many cases, these may be individuals who are without reliable transportation and have to walk to work.
If possible, pedestrians should always use the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, as is the case with many Carroll roads, make sure to walk on the side of the road facing traffic. Obviously, use crosswalks if you need to cross the street and they are available. It’s safer to walk a few extra feet to reach a crosswalk if possible. If not and you must cross elsewhere, do your best to cross where it is well lit, giving motorists a better chance to see you. Wear brightly colored clothing or use reflective tape on a backpack or jacket. And while it may seem obvious, look left, right, then left again before crossing.
Motorists can do their part do by being extra vigilant, refraining from texting or any other distracting behaviors while driving, and slowing down, especially at night on poorly lit roads.
In at least one of the recent collisions MSP is investigating, the pedestrian was on the side of the road attempting to change his tire when he was struck. We’ve noted in this space recently that the Maryland Move Over law expanded earlier this month to offer additional protection to transportation and utilities employees who often work on the sides of the road, in addition to law enforcement, emergency responders and construction vehicles. Whenever you see a vehicle on the side of the road or shoulder — regardless of if it has flashing lights or obviously falls under the Move Over law — it’s generally a good idea, and a courteous one, to move over a lane if it is safe to do so.
On the flip side, motorists should consider stashing a reflective vest or road flares in their trunk with other emergency kit items, in case they have a roadside emergency on a busy highway or a dark country road. In either case, it can help improve visibility for passing motorists and keep you safer if you’re outside the vehicle.
In a few weeks, we’ll “fall back” an hour as Daylight Saving Time ends on Nov. 4, meaning it will also be dark or nearing dark when most people leave work, making visibility even more difficult during some of the busiest hours on the road.
Whether walking or driving, watch out for each other so we can all safely get where we’re going.