Baltimore County Now
Natalie Litofsky, Public Safety Office of Media and Communications
From the spooky decorations to the scary costumes, Halloween is a holiday that embraces the fun side of fear. Though zombies and vampires are imaginary dangers, it’s important to watch out for a real safety hazard on Halloween – cars.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Halloween is the second-deadliest day of the year for pedestrians.
Parents and children alike should remember these road safety tips while trick-or-treating:
· Trick-or-treat while there is still daylight. The sun sets around 6 p.m., so keep this in mind when planning your route. Talk with your neighbors in advance to let them know you’ll be trick-or-treating earlier in the evening.
· Stay within a familiar neighborhood. This is the best way to travel where you know there are safe places to cross the street.
· Be a role model when it comes to obeying pedestrian traffic laws. Cross only at a crosswalk or intersection, and only when signal indicates you may cross. Tell your kids to walk on the sidewalk. If there are no walkways, stay as close to the curb as possible.
· Provide children with flashlights or other non-flammable light sources so they can see and be seen while walking. Glow bracelets or reflective tape are also a good way to increase visibility after dark.
· If your child’s costume includes a mask, make sure the eye holes do not obstruct vision. Try a test walk down a hallway in your home to practice looking for traffic while wearing a mask.
· Kids should always be accompanied by an adult while trick-or-treating. As a general rule, it’s best to have one adult for every three to six children.
· If you are driving a car on Halloween, be aware of the increase in pedestrian traffic. Obey the posted speed limit, make sure your headlights are on and keep an eye out for pedestrians along the roadway.
More useful information on pedestrian safety can be found online at Baltimore County’s Walk Safe resource page.
Sheldon Epstein, Chair, Baltimore County Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee
Cyclists and Motorists – Be Safe Out There
Over the past several weeks Department of Public Works contractors have been posting bike route signs and marking bike lanes in the Towson area to encourage us to leave our cars at home and try cycling. The Towson “Bike Beltway” Loop is only one of several new on-road bikeways that are being planned in Towson and other areas in the county.
With these improvements, Baltimore County is joining the growing number of cities, towns and counties throughout the US that are offering bicycling as an active transportation option. The county is making it easier for us to choose to bike, especially for those of us who live close to shopping, work, transit or parks. Cycling is an earth-friendly and healthy way to get around, as long as we do it safely. And it’s not just cyclists that may need a safety refresher. Many drivers who are not used to encountering bikes on the road could benefit from a few traffic safety reminders too.
So, let’s review a few of the rules of the road to help keep everyone safe and happy.
Bikes Belong.Some motorists think roadways are meant to be used only by cars, trucks and buses. But in fact, state law recognizes bicycles as vehicles, and allows them on almost all roadways. Those “Share the Road” signs you see occasionally are posted to alert drivers to expect to encounter cyclists on popular bike routes. But sharing the road is something that motorists and bicyclists should do wherever bicycles are permitted.
Obey the Rules of the Road.Since they are vehicles, bicyclists are expected to obey traffic safety laws. They are required to ride in the same direction as the motor traffic, and stop at stop signs and red traffic signals just as cars do. Slower moving cyclists are to stay to the right hand side of the road to allow motorists to pass them more easily, a law that also applies to motor vehicles. Cyclists are allowed to move left when needed to protect their safety, pass slower moving bicyclists, or make left turns. When passing a cyclist, a new law requires motorists to leave at least three feet of separation.
Be Careful in Intersections: Many traffic accidents (including those with bikes) happen at intersections. So, motorists--yield to cyclists as you would to any other vehicle. Be aware that it can be easy for you to underestimate how fast a bicycle is traveling. Experienced cyclists can be moving at 20-25 m.p.h. or more. And cyclists—always use appropriate hand signals before you turn so that your intentions are clear.
Wear the Helmet: Cyclists 16 and older are not required to wear a helmet, but it’s just a good safety practice. OK, they aren’t that fashionable, but accidents do happen, so protect the most important part of your body–your brain.
Avoid “Dooring”:Bicyclists riding adjacent to parked cars are especially leery of disembarking drivers opening their car doors in their paths. This can really hurt! Both exiting drivers and passing cyclists need to pay special attention when cars are parked on the road.
Please Don’t Yell or Throw Things: Drivers can get frustrated when they get behind a slower moving bicycle. But please take a deep breath, and wait calmly until it is safe to pass. And cyclists–follow the rules, be courteous, and enjoy the ride safely!
For more safety tips, check out: http://mhso.mva.maryland.gov/SafetyPrograms/program_bicycle_safety.htm
Lt. Steve Troutman, Baltimore County Police Crash Team Leader
Battalion Chief Jennifer Utz, Baltimore County Fire Department
Now that summer is here, people are getting out and about more. Sadly, the beautiful June weather means more people will be seriously hurt - or killed - just crossing the street.
It’s not usually who you think, or for the reasons you think…
There are some common misconceptions when it comes to pedestrian crashes. Most people tend to assume that the crash is caused by the person behind the wheel. That is normally NOT the case. Plus, it’s more often an adult rather than a child who is struck.
In fact, 80% of these incidents are actually caused by the pedestrian. Many of these fatal crashes are results of:
· Failure to walk in crosswalks or obey crosswalk signals
· Distracted walking
· Failure to look both ways
· Wearing dark clothing while walking at night
You might be even more surprised to know that 60% of those killed last year in pedestrian-vehicle crashes were over the age of 40. That’s right, we’re not just talking about distracted students or young children; most pedestrian infractions are committed by adults.
Tragically, in recent years, Baltimore County is experiencing a significant increase in the number of serious pedestrian crashes. Each year, the Baltimore County Police and Fire Departments respond to about 420 pedestrian-vehicle crashes - that’s more than one accident every day, on average! In 2013, the number of fatal crashes in Baltimore County increased more than in the last five years.
Though pedestrian related crashes are prevalent throughout Baltimore County, there are particular areas where rates are higher, such as Liberty Road in Randallstown, York Road in Towson, and Merritt Boulevard in Dundalk. Each of these areas has high volumes of traffic, which can result in greater chances of injury. There are also large numbers of pedestrian crashes near bus stops, as pedestrians can sometimes focus more on making the bus or rushing home than on their own safety.
With the drastic increase in pedestrian accidents in the last few years, Baltimore County is launching a “Heads Up! Walk Safe” public awareness campaign, focusing on four simple reminders:
· Obey the Law: always cross at a crosswalk or intersection
· Avoid Distractions: put away the cell phones and other electronic devices while crossing
· Be Visible: when walking or running at night, wear bright colors
· Be Aware: be mindful of your surroundings and know when a vehicle is approaching
Find out more on the County’s Walk Safe web page. On behalf of our fellow first responders, please walk safely and don’t be our next crash victim!
Edited by Justin Tucker, Baltimore County Office of Communications Intern