With several hundred federal, state and local traffic safety experts meeting at the 2016 Strategic Highway Safety Plan Summit to develop solutions to save lives on Maryland roadways, officials from the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), Maryland State Police and National Safety Council announced that in 2015, 520 people died in traffic-related crashes on Maryland’s roadways. According to data collected by MDOT, the preliminary figure represents an increase from the previous year when 443 people were killed and follows a trend that has seen roadway deaths increase nationwide.
“This tragic increase in people killed on our roadways is unacceptable,” said Deputy Transportation Secretary Jim Ports. “For all of us dedicating our lives to highway safety, this increase in fatalities is a call to action to strengthen and expand our efforts to save lives on our roads.”
Along with a rise in overall fatalities, Maryland experienced the following increases:
• 35 percent increase in commercial vehicle-related fatalities;
• 26 percent increase in young driver-involved fatalities; and
• Double the number of bicycle fatalities from 5 in 2014 to 10 last year.
“Police officers in Maryland recognize the important mission we have in reducing traffic crashes,” Maryland State Police Superintendent Colonel William Pallozzi said. “Our strict enforcement of traffic laws is a daily reminder to drivers that our laws are in place for their safety and violation of those laws impacts the safety of everyone on our roads. Our goal continues to be changing driver behavior by enforcement that is focused on those areas and driving behaviors where the need is greatest.”
The data was announced at an event to formally kick off Maryland’s implementation of a five-year plan to combat traffic crashes and the resulting serious injuries and fatalities. Known as the Maryland Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP), the effort brings together local, state, and federal partners and organizations such as the National Safety Council, AAA, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, AT&T, and numerous other corporate, non-profit, and public sector partners. The SHSP contains more than 30 separate strategies to reduce overall roadway fatalities by at least 50 percent in the next two decades. The Plan emphasizes solutions from the “Four Es” of highway safety – Engineering, Enforcement, Education, and Emergency Medical Services – and comprehensively addresses the troubling increase in roadway fatalities.
“We lose 100 people every day on our nation’s roadways, and every single one of these deaths is preventable,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “This uptick in crashes is serving notice: We need to prioritize our safety. Driving defensively and staying alert can help us reverse this trend in 2016.”
To reduce congestion, enhance roadway safety and fix all structurally deficient state-owned bridges, Governor Larry Hogan allocated nearly $2 billion in highway funds targeted to long-awaited improvements throughout the state. These improvements, along with recently announced roadway investments, include:
• $24 million to improve 11 Salisbury Bypass bridges;
• $81 million to reconfigure the MD 175/MD 295 interchange;
• $86 million to widen US 113;
• $100 million to reduce traffic gridlock along I-270;
• $120 million to widen MD 404 from US 50 to the Denton Bypass; and
• $152 million to widen a nine-mile stretch of MD 32.
The Hogan administration also is investing millions in targeted law enforcement strategies aimed at catching and arresting drunk drivers and educational campaigns focused on impaired driving, pedestrian safety, seat belt use and distracted driving. MDOT recently expanded a statewide campaign to help fight driver distraction by installing 26 signs prior to
13 rest areas alerting motorists of Maryland’s law that prohibits the use of handheld electronic devices while driving.
“It Can Wait!” is written in large letters on the signs to remind drivers that their call/text can wait until they reach the next rest area.
Officials at today’s event highlighted areas that have historically been leading causes of deaths on Maryland’s roads, including:
• Impaired driving;
• Distracted driving;
• Not wearing seat belts; and
• Not using crosswalks.
MDOT and its partners remind everyone of a few simple rules that will help save lives:
• Always drive sober. Use a designated driver, call a cab or rideshare, or use public transportation but never drive if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
• Park the phone before you drive. Driver distraction contributes to nearly 30,000 injuries and more than 200 deaths per year in Maryland.
• Always buckle up! It’s the single most important way to save your life in a crash.
• Slow down. Speeding will not get you where you want to go that much faster, but will contribute to a much greater likelihood of injury or death in a crash.
• Use crosswalks and bike lanes. Being visible on the road is especially important for pedestrians and bicyclists. Wear bright clothing, obey the rules of the road while on a bicycle, and cross where drivers expect to see you. When driving, always look for pedestrians and bicyclists.
• Look twice for motorcyclists. Motorcycles are sometimes more difficult to see so please look twice for them when changing lanes or pulling into an intersection.
• Respect Maryland’s work zones. Speeding and distracted driving through work zones is dangerous to workers and to other motorists.
• Move over. Drivers approaching from the rear of an emergency vehicle that is stopped on a highway must move over into the other lane, if possible, and slow down.