Darrin Barnes, 45, of Laurel has been driving to work on U.S. Route 1 through College Park for the past 10 years, and in that time he said he has watched the once-safe road become more congested with cars and pedestrians as the city continues to grow.
Barnes said despite new safety measures College Park, the University of Maryland, College Park, and the Maryland State Highway Administration officials are implementing in response to recent fatal accidents, pedestrians need to also be vigilant.
“I noticed that the students seem to have this entitlement to the road ... so they just kind of jump out,” Barnes said. “If they do follow the walkways and do what they’re supposed to do, they’re going to be safe.”
This is essentially the message that city and public safety officials are trying to send pedestrians and drivers as they prepare for a new school year and announce recently implemented traffic changes along Route 1.
The changes include lowering the speed limit from 35 to 25 mph between Guilford Road and Berwyn Road, yellow diamond-shaped signs directing pedestrians to crosswalks, pedestrian-operated crossing signals as well as a median fence SHA plans to put up between Knox Road and Hartwick Road to prevent jaywalking.
“It’s not simply a matter of traffic — everyone knows we have to change pedestrian behavior also,” said Bob Ryan, the city’s public services director. In addition to the engineering controls and other measures intended to channel the movement of cars and people across the road, Ryan said pedestrians should pay more attention to their surroundings.
“We can’t emphasize enough how important it is for people to take personal responsibility for their own safety,” he said.
Lt. Bill Alexander, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County Police Department, said there have been four fatal accidents on Route 1 this year, which is a marked increase from accidents the department has recorded on the road in the past 10 years. According to department records going back to 2004, on average Route 1 has had about one fatal accident per year, with two accidents recorded in 2012 and no accidents recorded in 2005, 2009 and 2013.
“All of us recognize that if multiple people are killed in these tragic accidents, we need to see if there’s something else that we can do,” Alexander said. He said many factors, including a high concentration of students and businesses, alcohol consumption and traffic congestion, come together on Route 1 in College Park, creating “the perfect storm scenario.”
But Alexander said that in all of the accident scenarios he is aware of, the pedestrian was injured because they were crossing the road outside of a crosswalk and against a crossing signal.
He stressed that he does not want to place blame on accident victims, but said educating the community can go a long way toward preventing future accidents.
“How can we get our community to utilize the safety equipment and the signals [that] are already in place?” he said.