WASHINGTON (WDVM) — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has declared October as National Pedestrian Safety Month. This comes due to the number of pedestrian accidents and fatalities growing, especially during times of the year when there is less daylight.
The fall is typically a time when local organizations like Street Smart get out and campaign to give the public safety reminders. The group told WDVM 25 there are many local advocates who share their stories of loss and survival.
Gwendolyn Ward-Heard is the mother of a girl who was killed after being hit by a car. “It’s hard. It hits you out of nowhere,” she said. Ward-Heard said it is a pain she will feel for the rest of her life. She added, “Every year I seem to go into a sort of depression because I know that the day is coming.”
October 31, 2012, is when Ward-Heard lost her 15-year-old daughter, Christina. She was hit by a car while walking to school. Ward-Heard said, “She was struck and killed by a driver that wasn’t paying attention.”
Accidents like this are happening more and more in the Washington Metropolitan area. “It’s not good news, for sure. We are getting worse,” said Mike Farrell, Senior Transportation Planner for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. “We have more crashes, more injuries, more fatalities. The numbers are going up and the percentages are going up.”
Data from the local Department of Transportation shows that in the last two years, the number of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents across the region increased by more than 19 percent.
Through Pedestrian Safety Month, advocates are hoping people will take extra time to learn and remember Street Safety Tips. Ward-Heard said, “It’s not only one person’s fault. Everyone plays a part in it.” Farrell added, “There are things you can do to protect yourself as a pedestrian. As a motorist, there are things you can do to protect other people.”
Drivers should remove distractions while driving, follow the speed limit, stop for pedestrians at crosswalks, and leave at least three feet of space when passing bicyclists.
People out walking should wear clothes that are easily seen, wait for walk signals at crosswalks and look both ways before crossing the road.
Cyclists need to obey traffic laws, ride with traffic, and use hand signals.
Farrell said, “If people do (the Street Safety Tips), I think we can make a major dent and bring these numbers down.”
For a complete list of safety tips and data, click here.
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