Police warn of rising pedestrian and bike accidents as winter approaches
Citing a recent surge in pedestrian and bicycle collisions, Montgomery County Police held a press conference in Bethesda Thursday hoping to raise awareness about the spike in the County.
The press conference came three days after Chevy Chase resident Ned Gaylin, 81, was struck and killed while attempting to ride his bicycle across Little Falls Parkway, near the Capital Crescent Trail in Bethesda.
Four days after the press conference, Silver Spring resident Robert Michael Grossman, 64, died after being struck by a vehicle while crossing Georgia Avenue in Aspen Hill.
Captain Tom Didone, director of the traffic division for Montgomery County Police, said there had been five major pedestrian and bicycle collisions in the County in the 16 days leading up to Thursday.
According to Didone, the recent surge in pedestrian and bicycle collisions is a yearly average of about 400 pedestrian and bicycle collisions with about 10 being fatal.
“If this trend continues, we are set to have one of the worst years that we’ve had in a very long time,” Didone said.
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Speaking near the site of the most recent fatal collision, Didone warned pedestrians and bicyclists they are responsible for their safety when they cross major roadways.
“That’s what happens very frequently, pedestrians always believe that they always have the right-of-way, and some cases they may think that this crosswalk — the paint on the ground — becomes a force field,” Didone said, pointing the cross walk across little falls park connecting to the Capital Crescent Trail, “that they’re protect or that cars have airbags that can deploy and immediately stop them on a dime and that not the case.”
Didone said pedestrians caused many of the recent collisions and bicyclists cross the street when traffic was oncoming, believing they have the right-of-way, which is not always the case under Maryland law.
According to Maryland traffic law, pedestrians who do not cross at the crosswalk must yield to oncoming traffic and they may not walk into a path of vehicles so close where a driver could not have time to react.
Jeff Dunckle, a pedestrian safety coordinator with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, said less daylight during the winter means more collisions for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.
“We’ve done analysis of our crash statistics under our county stat programs and we’ve found a direct correlation between the increase of hours of darkness with the increase of pedestrian of collision and we know this is when things get very dangerous out there when you put people out there in darkened conditions,” Dunckle said.
Dunckle suggested pedestrians and bicyclists walk and ride defensively and take extra precaution by wearing reflective clothing especially with daylight savings coming Nov. 6.
“This is the most dangerous time of the year for pedestrians and bicyclists,” Dunckle said. “This is the time in which daylight is disappearing, as you well know it’s getting dark at 6:30 now, after the daylight changes on the sixth, it going be getting dark at five-o’clock at night.”
Didone and Dunckle were joined by Maryland-National Capital Park Police Captain Rick Pelicano who said Park Police there is a slight uptick in accidents in the number of accident, saying there were no reported accidents on park trail in Montgomery County, compared to three so far this year.
While Didone said that much of the responsibility for collisions relies on the drivers to be aware, last Thursday press conference was exclusively dedicated to raising awareness for pedestrian and bicyclists safety.