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Pedestrian Deaths on Maryland Roads

This past October, a 15 year old girl was struck and killed as she crossed Germantown Road, in Montgomery County.  She was hit by a Ford Fusion, which was proceeding through a green signal.  Sadly, she later died from her injuries at a nearby hospital.  The girl, Christina Morris-Ward, had been walking her normal route to school at Seneca Valley High School.  Her tragic death sparked a call for schools to make their children more aware of the dangers in their environment.  Seneca Valley's principal, Mark Cohen, stated "I think that's one of the responsibilities any school has, to make kids more aware that while school is a very safe place to be, they need to be aware of their surroundings."  This incident also calls to mind U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood's public blunder regarding pedestrian deaths.  He was quoted as saying that 80% of pedestrian deaths were due to jaywalking.  In fact, someone on his team misread the statistic that 79% of pedestrians fatalities occurred at non-intersections and took this to mean jaywalking.  Non-intersections include incidents where a car jumps the curb or leaves the roadway, where there is a crosswalk but no actual intersection, or where a pedestrian is crossing a driveway or an alleyway.  To interpret the statistic as only jaywalking would essentially blame the pedestrian for their own death.  The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration has also issued new warnings regarding "distracted walking."  These distractions include listening to music with ear buds, cell phone use, drugs use, and alcohol consumption.  While taking safety precautions while walking may help save many lives, there should also be research into the driver's blame in this equation.  Drivers are often texting, eating, playing with their cell phone or ipods, applying makeup, or entertaining an array of other distractions.  The Director for America Walks suggests that speed may be one of the first issues to investigate.  He notes that "the majority of crashes [resulting in] fatalities and serious injuries are related to high speed streets."  If drivers just slow down and pay attention, Maryland's roads might be a much safer place to walk.