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Opinion

Preventing pedestrian injuries [Letter]

A recent article reported that Baltimore ranks 28th among the nation's 51 most dangerous cities for pedestrians, with nearly 500 pedestrians killed between 2003 and 2012 ("Baltimore ranks 28th nationally in pedestrian danger study," May 20).

Beyond the tragic statistics of pedestrian deaths and injuries, inadequate pedestrian walkways pose a significant deterrent to walking — the number one aerobic activity for adults in the U.S.

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A gentle, low-impact form of exercise that's easy, free and suitable for people of all ages and abilities, walking at least 30 minutes a day can improve heart health and reduce the risk of diabetes and obesity.

As public health professionals with vested interests in Baltimore, we at the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy are working to create a truly pedestrian-friendly city to improve the overall health of those who live, work and play here.

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Efforts to improve pedestrian safety should involve key stakeholders who have the authority to implement recommended injury countermeasures. And they should align with the "three E's" of injury prevention: Engineering safer roads and sidewalks, enforcing pedestrian-related laws and educating drivers and pedestrians.

While continuing to work with the city to implement engineering and enforcement solutions, we conducted research to develop an educational program. Our message — STOP, WAIT, GO SLOW — BE ALERT AND DON'T GET HURT — targets both drivers and pedestrians.

This message is presented alongside a set of hard-hitting images that show the real tragedy of pedestrian injury. Our goal is to help people remember how to be safer drivers and pedestrians, and ultimately decrease the number of pedestrian injuries and deaths in the city.

Our campaign, supported by the Maryland Highway Safety Office and Johns Hopkins University, is being implemented in the entire Baltimore region in partnership with the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, our area metropolitan planning organization. Preliminary evidence from our ongoing evaluation suggests that the messages are sticking and people are changing their behaviors.

By working together to create and promote safer walking environments, we hope to make Baltimore one of the safest and healthiest cities for pedestrians.

Keshia Pollack and Andrea Gielen, Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, associate director and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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To respond to this letter, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.


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