Maryland has averaged more than 500 traffic fatalities annually over the past five years, and despite reduced traffic volumes during the past six months due to the COVID-19 emergency, fatalities on our roadways have increased compared to 2019.
Maryland also has experienced several pedestrian deaths recently, and over the same five years the state averaged 115 pedestrian fatalities and thousands of injuries as a result of motor vehicle crashes.
Many of these crashes, fatalities and injuries are avoidable. Families, friends and coworkers shouldn’t have to grieve the loss of a loved one. This year especially, with so many already impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is especially hard to accept the added pain caused by avoidable deaths on our roads.
Pedestrians are some of the most vulnerable roadway users. They are typically people who are out for a walk, getting exercise or walking as a mode of transportation. But we also should remember that as soon as a driver or passenger exits a vehicle due to a roadside emergency or breakdown, they too become a pedestrian.
Many motorists are returning to Maryland roadways for work, play and vacations. We know unexpected breakdowns can happen, but inspecting your vehicle before travel to ensure it is in good working condition can help avoid an emergency. If you need to pull your car off the road because of a crash or vehicle issue, please move as far off the roadway as possible and turn on your hazard lights. Staying buckled inside the vehicle until roadside assistance arrives is often the safest strategy. If another vehicle strikes a disabled vehicle on the side of the road, a seat belt offers significant protection to the driver and passengers.
If you must exit a disabled vehicle, be sure you are visible and stay as far away from traffic as possible. Never stand directly in front of or behind a vehicle. Instead, stand behind a guardrail or on an embankment as far away from traffic as you can.
We all play a part in making Maryland’s roadways safe. As drivers, we must limit distractions, slow down, always drive sober, buckle up every seat, every ride, and look out for pedestrians and bicyclists. Remember to give cyclists a minimum of 3 feet while safely passing. When approaching a first responder or fellow driver pulled over on the side of the road, move over a lane if it’s safe to do so, or simply slow down while passing.
As pedestrians, remember to be visible to drivers, look both ways before crossing the road, and cross at crosswalks and intersections.
As bicyclists, obey traffic signs and signals, wear a helmet, and use lights at night when visibility is poor.
No matter how you travel, let’s all get where we’re going safely.