Safer Walking, Safer Driving


CORRECTING A CORRECTION: Did you ever have one of those days? In an editorial Nov. 29, we congratulated Westminster on its award for maintaining a 12-year streak without a pedestrian fatality. Afterward, it was brought to our attention that John Fisher was killed Nov. 4 while crossing Route 140. We published a correction Dec. 2, saying the streak had ended. Now we learn from the city police, that Mr. Fisher was struck 75 feet outside the city line. We are sorry for Mr. Fisher's tragic death, while we hope Westminster can sustain a remarkable streak that's still going.

Last Monday, we congratulated Westminster for its exceptional pedestrian safety record. It got an award from the Automobile Association of America for the fact that not one pedestrian had been killed Westminster in 12 years. We failed to note, however, that on Nov. 4 this streak ended. John Fisher, 41, died that evening while crossing Route 140. We hope his unfortunate death marks the start of another safe streak.

Certainly there's an element of chance, of good fortune or luck, in it. But that's not the main reason that the towns of Havre de Grace and Westminster have gone for more than decade without a pedestrian traffic fatality.

These communities in Harford and Carroll counties have made a concerted effort to raise public awareness and to engineer their towns so as to enhance pedestrian safety.

For their efforts, they were recently honored with Safety Commendation/Achievement Awards by the American Automobile Association. That AAA program is 54 years old, begun in 1939 after the number of pedestrian deaths in the United States exceeded 12,400 for the year. Last year, the number of pedestrian traffic deaths was reduced to 5,546 -- the lowest total since 1975.

Communities that participate in the auto club's program are evaluated on law enforcement, accident records, traffic

engineering, safety legislation, school safety campaigns and active public education and awareness programs. Nationwide, more than 2,200 towns and cities had their efforts judged by a panel of national traffic safety experts from government and the private sector.

Places that strike an effective balance of education, engineering and law enforcement achieve noticeable reductions in pedestrian deaths and injuries, the AAA says.

No pedestrian has died in a traffic accident in Havre de Grace for 11 years. School safety education efforts have been credited with teaching youngsters to be more careful and more cognizant of the dangers of moving vehicles.

Westminster has gone 12 years without a pedestrian fatality. Its local emphasis on driving safety has been well recognized. It is among the Maryland communities regularly cited for awareness of seat belt use, for example, which extends to expanded awareness of overall safer driving.

The decline in pedestrian deaths reflects the reduction of overall motor vehicle accident fatalities. In 1992, the number of traffic-related deaths fell to 39,235, the lowest toll in 30 years despite a dramatic increase in the number of drivers and vehicles on the road.

Decreases in drunk-driving deaths, and greater use of seat belts and child-restraints are among the factors cited. But so, too, is the safety awareness promoted by communities such as Havre de Grace and Westminster, for the protection of pedestrians and motorists.

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