OCEAN CITY — On the eve of the biggest early season weekend of the year in Ocean City, State Highway Administration (SHA) officials this week embarked on a new initiative to improve pedestrian safety in the resort.
Just days before the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, SHA officials on Wednesday began installing thermoplastic pedestrian sidewalk markings at a handful of the trouble spot intersections in the resort. The new black and yellow markings were installed this week at the 19th, 33rd and 49th streets intersections recognized for having an inordinate number of pedestrian traffic incidents in recent years.
The new sidewalk markings are designed to direct pedestrians to safe crossings at marked crosswalks. With the arrival of spring-like weather and a new season in the resort, the number of pedestrians interacting with traffic on Coastal Highway will increase dramatically in coming weeks and with it comes an increase in incidents involving pedestrians.
SHA traffic engineers examined pedestrian crash data for the past three years along Coastal Highway and determined the intersections at 19th, 33rd and 49th Streets experienced the highest frequency of incidents. For years, the town of Ocean City and its police department have battled the pedestrian safety issue with programs of its own and the latest SHA initiative, coordinated with the town, is the latest weapon in the arsenal.
“Overall crash fatalities are decreasing in Maryland, but pedestrian crashes have remained relatively unchanged with an average of 100 pedestrians dying each year,” said SHA District Engineer Donnie Drewer this week. “Together, with our partners, we are taking a hard look at pedestrian safety issues along key corridors where pedestrian traffic volume is highest. This new pilot project is another example of the innovative way engineering can help influence the behavior of our customers to make better, safer decisions.”
The new markings inform pedestrians that a marked crosswalk is just ahead and indicate the direction they should follow to a crosswalk. The thermoplastic markings are made of the same material as stamped pavement crosswalks and are not painted, which wears out faster. Each marking has an estimated usable life of 10-20 years and each cost around $150.
“Pedestrian safety is a priority for our community because people walk everywhere in Ocean City,” said OCPD Chief Bernadette DiPino this week. “They go to and from the beach and to the Boardwalk. We remind citizens to push the button not your luck. Take a few extra seconds and walk to the closest crosswalk. It’s good for your heart, your health and your life.”
In addition to monitoring pedestrian crash reports during the three-year pilot program, SHA and its partners will observe pedestrian behavior at all three locations and determine if the new sidewalk pavement markings effectively reduce jaywalking and pedestrian incidents. The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration’s Highway Safety Office will also provide educational materials to Ocean City businesses to share with customers and guests about the purpose and use of the new pedestrian pavement markings.
For the OCPD, the timing of the pedestrian safety initiative couldn’t have been much better, according to spokesperson Jessica Waters.
“We’re very excited to work with State Highway on this issue,” she said. “Pedestrian safety is an issue very near and dear to us and we’re hoping this initiative helps improve awareness about the importance of using the marked crosswalks.”
With the arrival of a holiday weekend in the resort, the new markings at the known problem intersections could provide almost immediate dividends.
“This is just a pilot program for these three intersections, which historically have a lot of pedestrian incidents,” said Waters. “A lot of these accidents involve alcohol, and for them to get these markings installed quickly before St. Patrick’s Day is just phenomenal. We’re hoping to extend it to all of our intersections in the future.”