Dear Editor, January 1, 2020 marked the beginning of a new year, and while it often signals a fresh start for many, it also brought about the same heart-wrenching headlines we have all become too familiar with.
Within the first week of the year, seven pedestrians were hit in three separate incidents in Essex, Columbia and Aspen Hill. Four of the victims were children, three of which were killed and the other critically injured. Days later, a Waldorf man was killed in a crash in Prince George’s County and a woman died after a two-vehicle crash in Frederick County. These are just a few of the multiple tragedies that have already happened on Maryland roads this year. Over the last decade, Maryland has averaged more than 500 fatalities, including more than 100 pedestrians, and thousands of injuries, each year as the result of motor vehicle crashes. But those figures are more than just numbers – they’re mothers, fathers, children, siblings, friends, and coworkers.
We often hear the word “accident” when referring to a motor vehicle crash. Using that word suggests that the incident was unavoidable and no one is to blame, but in reality, 94 percent of roadway fatalities and injuries can be attributed to human behavior. The most common contributing factors to a fatality or injury in a motor vehicle crash are driving while impaired, speeding, driving distracted or failure to wear a seat belt – all behaviors that can be changed.
Last year, the Maryland legislature enacted a bill that set a goal of zero motor vehicle fatalities in the state by 2030. That goal can only be attained by all of us realizing that we each have a responsibility to make the safest choices we can.
As drivers, park the phone, slow down, never driver impaired, look out for bicyclists and pedestrians and buckle up in every seat, every time. Look out for our first responders and fellow drivers who may be pulled over on the side of the roadway.
As pedestrians, be visible to drivers, look both ways before crossing, and cross the street at crosswalks and intersections.
As bicyclists, obey traffic signs and signals, wear a helmet and use lights at night when visibility is poor.
Let’s change the conversation: motor vehicle crashes are no accident. They can be prevented, and we all have a responsibility to each other to make sure we make it home safely throughout 2020.
-Sincerely, Chrissy Nizer MDOT MVA Administrator