SILVER SPRING – A year after breaking his hip while playing with his kids on a trampoline, Montgomery County Council member Hans Riemer (D- At large) still requires the use of a cane to walk.
Riemer said because of his lack of mobility, parking lots and intersections have become dangerous places for him as he struggles to avoid distracted drivers.
“There are two places that I found that are really scary for me as a person with a different kind of mobility,” Riemer said. “One is an intersection; the other is a parking lot…when I’m in a parking lot I don’t know if the cars and the drivers realize that I can’t get out of the way.”
On Thursday, County Executive Ike Leggett announced a new educational campaign to help bring awareness to pedestrian and driver safety. Leggett said there has been a sharp increase in pedestrian collisions in the County. In 2014 there were 420 pedestrian collisions in the County, which rose to 473 in 2015, according to Leggett.
According to Leggett, about one-quarter of 2015 pedestrian collisions occurred in parking lots.
“I don’t think a lot of people necessarily realize that the statistics that the County Executive mentioned are really– they’re scary,” Riemer said.
Flanked by Riemer, Council member Sidney Katz (D-3) and Police Lieutenant Nicholas Augustine at Wheaton Market Place parking lot, Leggett announced a new initiative to educate residents on pedestrian safety.
Leggett attributed the cause in the rise of pedestrian collisions to drivers and pedestrians distracted by their cellphones.
“In Maryland it is illegal for drivers to read, write or send a text,” Leggett said.
Augustine said the reason for the increase in pedestrian collisions is due to an increase in traffic caused by a rising population.
Police have already started writing more tickets to drivers on their cellphones and pedestrians not crossing at crosswalks according to Augustine.
“We can try to reduce that by having preventive efforts through enforcement and education, so people realize this,” Augustine said. “Pedestrian laws are usually really forgotten when you’re talking Driver’s Ed and stuff like that, so we need to go out there and teach pedestrians, (who) may be coming from other countries and not familiar with the laws here in Maryland.”
To raise awareness about pedestrian collisions in parking lots, the County handed out safety tip sheets and yellow shopping bags bearing the slogan “Look out for each other.” Additionally, Leggett said the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) is placing “Heads Up” decals in all County parking lots as a reminder to pedestrians to be aware when walking in parking lots.
Leggett also said MCDOT is mailing 150,000 postcards to county residents featuring a quiz to bring awareness to pedestrian safety.
“We’re doing all of this to better educate our community and we’re doing so because it is important,” Leggett said.