OCEAN CITY – On Tuesday, Mayor Rick Meehan represented Ocean City at the AAA summer travel press conference at the foot of the Bay Bridge to help kick off the Walk Smart Safety Campaign that features a crab lifeguard watching over Coastal Highway.
“We will be there to kick off Memorial Day weekend with AAA to talk about how many people plan on hitting the road this year,” Mayor Rick Meehan said at the conclusion of the Mayor and Council meeting on Monday evening as he looked forward to the AAA conference the next day. “The state will be there to kick off the Walk Smart! campaign that is quite an extensive campaign … it addresses so many different things in Ocean City. The state has gone far and beyond to address this issue and to keep the people who do come to Ocean City safe while they are here.”
According to State Highway Administration (SHA), Ocean City becomes one of Maryland’s largest cities during the summer months with a population that changes each and every weekend. Last year two pedestrians were killed in Ocean City and another 13 were injured, a marked increase compared to 2011 when there were no pedestrian fatalities and eight people injured.
A partnership has been formed between the Town of Ocean City, Ocean City Police Department, SHA, other local businesses and agencies to create the Walk Smart! campaign that will complement ongoing engineering and enforcement efforts to keep Ocean City residents and visitors safe this summer.
“Our visitors love Ocean City because we are a safe and fun, family resort, and we want to keep it that way,” said Meehan. “We are asking visitors to walk smart in Ocean City, by using marked crosswalks and crossing with the signal.”
The Walk Smart! campaign features the Maryland crab dressed as a lifeguard who teaches the importance of roadway basics in a beach-friendly, family-fun tone. His Save Yourself! message teaches personal responsibility and directs people to use crosswalks, follow signals and exercise general street smarts.
Crab the Lifeguard will be featured on Ocean City transit buses, plane banners, boat billboard messages, roadside billboards and television and radio public service announcements, according to SHA.
The Walk Smart! campaign will provide constant, consistent messaging all summer long. In addition to outdoor advertising, the campaign includes communicating safety messages to high school seniors prior to Senior Week as well as Ocean City’s late night crowd. Walk Smart! teams will also be distributing street smart tips cards along Coastal Highway.
Tips included in the literature are cross at and within marked crosswalks; look, pay attention, then cross; follow all traffic signals signs and marking; use the sidewalk; do not cross in the street; and wear light-colored or reflective clothing at night so drivers can see you.
When driving stop for all pedestrians in crosswalks, which is a Maryland law, slow down, watch for pedestrians and yield to pedestrians when turning and keep your eyes on the road. It’s illegal to text and use hand held devices while driving. Stay alert and avoid all distractions, and share the road with bicycles and give three feet of space when passing.
“For Maryland families, a vacation to Ocean City is a treasured summer ritual,” said Gov. Martin O’Malley. “As the crowds swell during the summer months, we must all remain vigilant to ensure drivers and pedestrians along OC roadways are safe. This strategic campaign is a partnership to safeguard the lives of vacationers, visitors and residents of Maryland’s family-friendly beach resort.”
The AAA summer travel press conference is held along the Kent Island shoreline, which thousands of drivers will cross in their travel to shore destinations. While SHA is focused on helping people arrive at the beach safely through initiatives such as 511, emergency traffic patrols and live traffic monitoring, the campaign goal is to keep visitors safe while in Ocean City, so they arrive safely home again. For tips for parents of children, senior week bound teens and others, visit www.ocwalksmart.com.