NEW FOR THURSDAY: OC Pedestrian Accidents Down 47% Through July
OCEAN CITY — In the midst of a summer marred by several high-profile and unpleasant incidents, a bright spot has been the apparent decline in the number of pedestrian collisions along Coastal Highway, a decline local officials hope is the result of an aggressive public service message campaign.
Through the end of July, there have been 16 reported pedestrian-vehicle collisions compared to a reported 31 through the same period last year. The difference represents a reduction of 47 percent thus far through the end of July and Ocean City Police believe the dramatic decline is due in large part to the multi-pronged plan of action for improved pedestrian safety this summer in the wake of a number of tragic, often fatal collisions in recent years.
Last winter, the State Highway Administration (SHA), in cooperation with the town of Ocean City and its police department, identified a handful of known trouble spots for pedestrian-vehicle collisions and made improvements to the signage and signal timings at the troublesome locations. Perhaps more importantly, SHA and the town of Ocean City, along with the private sector business community joined forces with an aggressive “Walk Smart” public safety message program to get the word out about the importance of using the crosswalks for pedestrians and the equally important vigilance on the part of motorists in the resort to watch out for pedestrians in all areas.
The ubiquitous “crab” logo for the Walk Smart campaign can be seen on wrapped buses, billboards, temporary electronic message boards, on literature disbursed to hotel and condo renters and even on coasters in the countless bars and restaurants in the resort. While the 16 reported collisions through the end of July are likely 16 too many in the eyes of state and local officials, pedestrian-vehicle interactions are inevitable on a narrow 10-mile strip shared by hundreds of thousands of visitors on a given summer week, and the Walk Smart program appears to be achieving the desired results. The last reported pedestrian-vehicle collision was over a month ago on July 7.
“We like to hope it’s the pedestrian safety campaign,” said OCPD spokesperson Lindsay O’Neal this week. “A lot of money and resources went into it and continue to go into it and we firmly believe it is at least partly responsible for the reduction in the number of incidents.”
O’Neal said the OCPD and state and local officials do not intend to allow any backsliding on the powerful Walk Smart program. The plan is to continue to hammer the message home and redouble the effort in the future.
“We have to do just as much or even more next year,” said O’Neal. “We need to do everything we can to keep getting the message out.”
Of course, the summer of 2013 thus far has not been without its share of senseless and sometimes tragic incidents involving pedestrians and vehicles. In some cases, pedestrians have been struck while attempting to cross the highway not in a crosswalk and against a traffic signal, while in other cases, a vehicle has struck a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk.
In some cases, the pedestrian has been under the influence of alcohol and the driver has not, while in other cases, the driver has been under the influence and the pedestrian has not. In still other cases, neither the pedestrian nor the driver has been under the influence. Pedestrian accidents happen at all times of the night and day.
The season got off to a rather ominous start with the first pedestrian-vehicle collision way back on May 12. In that case, a Pennsylvania man dashed across Coastal Highway at 49th Street while not in a crosswalk and against a traffic signal and rolled across the windshield of a southbound vehicle. The bloodied pedestrian fled the scene and was found hours later.
Less than a week later on May 18, an unidentified woman was crossing Coastal Highway from east to west in a marked crosswalk with a pedestrian signal when she was struck by a vehicle attempting to turn north from Robin Drive. The investigation revealed the driver failed to yield the right-of-way to the pedestrian and struck her while she was in a crosswalk.
On May 25, the third pedestrian-vehicle collision in as many weeks occurred when a New York woman attempting to cross Baltimore Ave. at 19th Street was struck by a vehicle driven by a Pennsylvania man. In that case, both the driver and the pedestrian were cited for being under the influence of alcohol.
The most serious incident of the season thus far involving a pedestrian-vehicle collision occurred on June 1 when a Salisbury woman struck a 6-year-old girl attempting to cross the street at 19th Street following the annual Ravens Parade. The driver stopped at first, but then fled the scene and was stopped as she attempted to flee across the Route 50 bridge. The victim was seriously injured, but appears to be on the road to recovery from a dramatic head injury. Meanwhile, the driver faces second-degree assault charges in addition to traffic citations.