GAITHERSBURG – This year motorists struck and killed nine pedestrians while 426 other vehicular crashes involved pedestrians.
The total is below the 449 incidents in 2015, according to Montgomery County Police.
Cpl. Rebecca Innocenti, Montgomery County police spokesperson, said 15 fatal crashes involving pedestrians occurred in the county in 2015. Drivers were at fault in more than half of this year’s incidents involving pedestrians, according to police documents acquired by the Montgomery County Sentinel. Of the drivers involved, 33.5 percent (135 drivers) were not at fault; 60.2 percent (262) of drivers were at fault. For 6.7 percent of drivers, police did not know who was responsible.
Capt. Paul Starks, county police spokesperson, said everybody must be attentive to moving on the road to reduce pedestrian collisions.
“Whether you’re a pedestrian, riding a bicycle or driving a motor vehicle, those are three distinct roles, and there are overlapping responsibilities and unique and different responsibilities, depending on which role you’re in, but everybody, no matter which role they’re in, has got to proceed safety,” Starks said.
Twenty-eight percent (123) of drivers in accidents involving pedestrians “looked but did not see” the pedestrian(s), according to police documents. Police reported nearly one-fourth of the drivers (102) investigated were not distracted.
Starks said pedestrian visibility, driver speed, lighting and engineering of intersections are some of the many contributing factors to the accidents.
For 18.6 percent of the drivers (81), police said they did not know whether the motorist was distracted.
Police reported several accidents in which the pedestrian did not use a crosswalk but the driver was at fault. Starks said it’s drivers’ responsibility to be aware of what’s ahead of them.
“If you’re driving a car, you have to be engaged, so you have to be looking ahead. You have to anticipate that not everyone is going to be as good a driver as you are,” Starks said, regarding drivers who run stop signs or don’t stop for pedestrians.
He added that not allowing enough distance between the driver’s vehicle and the one in front can lessen a driver’s ability to see pedestrians crossing the street.
Police specified that 48 of the drivers were distracted at the time of the collision. Of those, 14 were inattentive or lost in thought. Seven people were distracted by a person, object or event. Other riders distracted the drivers in three separate accidents.
Starks also warns pedestrians to avoid distractions such as music or phone conversations while crossing the street. They also need to obey the law when they cross.
“(Safety) can be talked about in education pieces, but it comes down to the individual,” Starks said. “Obey the law: Cross when it’s safe, when it’s legal. Be fully aware that when they step off that curb onto the street they’re in a surface that’s occupied by motor vehicles.”
Cellphones caused some of the distractions. Police reported at least one driver was distracted by dialing a cellphone, and another was distracted by talking on or listening to a cellphone. Two more drivers had other cellphone-related distractions.
Starks said it’s possible police did not document all cellphone-related distractions.
“That number could be higher,” Starks said, regarding the four documented incidents where police mentioned driver cellphone use.
Police reported one person was distracted by a navigational device. Another driver was distracted by adjusting climate or audio controls. Nine were distracted by other means.
Pedestrian fatalities of 2016:
• Devika Gunasekere, age 67, was crossing, Old Georgetown Road from West Battery Lane to East Battery Lane, when a Ride On bus turned left from Battery Lane onto Old Georgetown Road and struck her Jan. 5; she died that evening. Police said they believe she crossed at a crosswalk.
• Beza Mesfin, age 26, was crossing Randolph Road March 4 at 7:55 a.m. when two vehicles hit her; she died at an area hospital March 6.
• Phillip Gary Constantine, 57, was crossing East Gude Drive in his wheelchair in the area of a crosswalk and at a traffic signal when he was hit April 30 at 11:30 p.m. and later died.
• Seventy-seven-year-old Julius Henry Stanton was crossing Layhill Road at the 4400 block Aug. 4 when a vehicle struck and carried him until it got near the intersection of Bel Pre Road and Homecrest Road and continued driving.
• Simon Saikmon Eng, 65, was walking on Bells Mill Road just before 9 p.m. Aug. 31 when he was struck by a Lexus; he died at a nearby hospital.
• Pedro Mendoza, 54, has hit Oct. 16 at 8:50 p.m. when he was crossing Norbeck Road on the east side near Baltimore Road; he was taken to a hospital and died.
• Robert Michael Grossman, 64, was crossing Georgia Avenue at 6:55 a..m. Oct. 24 near Regina Drive when he was struck by a Toyota Camry; he was taken to an area hospital and died.
• Esther Contreras, 63, was hit Dec. 6 at about 5:30 p.m. near the intersection of Chapman and Bouic avenues.