In the United States, motor vehicles often dictate and dominate travel. This is especially true in the Washington DC area, a city with a population of over 700,000 residents, and many commute to work. Plus, hundreds of thousands of commuters enter the city daily, increasing DC’s population to well over one million people. Public transportation like the metro and buses are options, but most of those commuters are entering the city by car.
While driving can be convenient, this also inherently presents a safety risk. According to a report by the Governors Highway Association, pedestrian deaths have risen by 77% in the United States in the past decade. In Washington, DC, approximately 313 were killed because of vehicle crashes in the DC region in 2022. This is the second straight year that the number of deaths has been over 300. Eighteen of those deaths were pedestrians on DC roads in 2022.
A pedestrian is one who travels on foot, whether walking or running. In 2021, 11 pedestrian traffic fatalities occurred in Washington, DC, according to the Governors Safety Highway Association. This was an increase to previous years, with 6 pedestrian traffic fatalities each occurring in 2019 and 2020.
There are many reasons why pedestrian deaths may occur, and they seem to be on the rise. Different factors include:
Safety features in the cars themselves may have decreased the chances of drivers and passengers suffering fatal injuries. At the same time, however, the rise in speeding and distracted driving increases the risk of pedestrian fatalities.
Washington, DC, has taken action to reduce fatalities against pedestrians. These include the DC council passing a law banning right turns at red lights by 2025, allowing cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs if the intersection is clear, and making the local bus service free. By waiving local bus fees, the DC council hopes to increase the use of public transportation and thus lower the amount of motor vehicles on the road.
Washington, DC, is also trying to reduce traffic fatalities through physical projects that can change driver behavior. Washington, DC, is increasing the number of traffic cameras on roads, expanding bike lanes, and making certain roads smaller. The increase in traffic cameras can lead to reduced speeding from cars.
Furthermore, safety advocates say that making streets narrower and slower is one of the best ways to prevent traffic fatalities.
In the Washington DC area, Prince George’s County in Maryland has the highest rate of traffic fatalities per 100,000 people. In 2022, 117 people died in a traffic fatality in Prince George’s County, or a rate of 11.8 deaths per 100,000. This rate is significantly higher than the traffic fatality rate of other local jurisdictions in the DC area.
By comparison, Fairfax County, Montgomery County, Washington DC, Prince William County, Loudoun County, Alexandria City, and Arlington County had about half or fewer traffic fatalities in 2022 than Prince George’s County. However, on the positive side, Prince George’s County was one of three counties in the local area that had fewer traffic fatalities in 2022 than they did in 2021, joining Washington DC and Alexandria City in that category.
Those numbers include all fatalities caused by car accidents. When looking at the data for pedestrians specifically, according to the Maryland Department of Transportation, Prince George’s County had 466 pedestrian crashes in 2021. Out of those 466, 346 resulted in injury, and 35 resulted in death.
From 2016 to 2021, Prince George’s County averaged 382 pedestrian injury crashes per year and 29 fatal pedestrian crashes per year. These are the highest pedestrian injury and death numbers in all of Maryland, with only Montgomery County and Baltimore coming close in the state.
Montgomery County has averaged 379 pedestrian injury crashes per year in the same five-year period, with an average of 13 pedestrian deaths from crashes. Baltimore has averaged 377 pedestrian injury crashes in that five-year period, with an average of 21 pedestrian deaths from crashes.
It is interesting to note that while the number of crashes resulting in injury to pedestrians between these three Maryland jurisdictions is similar, the number of crashes that have resulted in death to pedestrians has been significantly higher in Prince George’s County.
Like other local areas, Prince George’s County has attempted to implement policies to prevent traffic and pedestrian fatalities, both in the past and in the future.
In 2017, Prince George’s County adopted new urban design standards. Prince George’s County is part of a “Vision Zero” plan that aims t to eliminate all traffic fatalities by 2040. In 2017, Prince George’s County guidelines called for slower speeds, shorter crossing distances, and wider sidewalks, among other changes.
In 2023, Prince George’s County is considering Council Bill CB-069-2023, or “The Walkable Urban Streets Act,” in the Prince George’s County Council. The legislation will likely focus on reducing speed limits in pedestrian areas to reduce fatal accidents.
In addition to larger policy goals that aim to curb traffic fatalities, we can do things individually to lower the likelihood of a car hitting a pedestrian.
When walking outside, always be alert for vehicles in the surrounding area.
Remember that even if you see a vehicle approaching, the driver might not see you. So always be aware of the cars around you to avoid getting hit.
As a pedestrian, remember to walk on designated walkways and look both ways on the road multiple times to make sure you do not miss anything. Also, remember that traffic rules for pedestrians are in place for pedestrian safety. Therefore, following the law to prevent unnecessary risk and accidents is necessary.
As a driver, it is also crucial to obey all traffic laws, including yielding to pedestrians.
When driving in a city, pay close attention when making turns at an intersection.
Turn off and put away any distractions, like a cell phone, and always keep your eyes on the road.
The Cochran Firm’s Personal Injury attorneys have extensive experience assisting clients who have been injured in automobile accidents as pedestrians. If you have been a victim in a motor vehicle accident, you may be suffering from serious injuries, time off work, medical expenses, as well as emotional trauma.
We can help you recover the damages and receive the compensation you are due.