OCEAN CITY – As the Town of Ocean City prepares for the 4th of July holiday and the peak summer season, state and local partners joined together to remind visitors and residents to: Walk Smart, Bike Smart and Drive Smart.
On Tuesday morning, Maryland Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Dennis Schrader joined Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, Ocean City Police Captain Kevin Kirstein and SHA District Engineer Donnie Drewer in front of the newly installed pedestrian crosswalk on 101st Street to reiterate the message of the Walk Smart Campaign.
“I am excited to kick off the 2015 Ocean City Walk Smart Campaign,” Drewer said. “We are looking forward to another successful summer here in Ocean City. We are here in Ocean City and communities throughout the State because we know that one traffic fatality is one to many.”
The ongoing effort behind the Walk Smart Campaign combines engineering, education and enforcement to save lives and prevent injuries along Coastal Highway and other Ocean City roadways.
After a tragic 2012 season that ended with two pedestrian crash fatalities and a dramatic increase in pedestrian injuries, the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) reported no pedestrian related fatalities for the next two seasons after the successful 2013 Ocean City Walk Smart Campaign launch. With the 2014 season showing a slight increase in pedestrian-related crash injuries and more than 30 bicycle incidents, the Walk Smart Campaign continues to expand pedestrian and bicycle safety messaging.
Pedestrians are urged to use crosswalks and wait for “walk” signals, while bicyclists are reminded to ride in the direction of traffic, avoid distractions and follow all traffic signs and signals. Drivers should stop for pedestrians, watch for bicyclists and share the road.
“Before the summer season, SHA has been working very closely with Ocean City’s taskforce on a number of improvements throughout town focusing on bicycle and pedestrian safety,” Drewer said.
In addition to promoting safety messages, SHA continues to add engineering enhancements including: the new mid-block crosswalk and signal at 101st Street, median lighting at 49th Street and curb bump outs at each intersection of Baltimore Ave. between 9th and 15th streets.
SHA installed “wrong way” bike signs at 45 locations and installed new crosswalks at two intersections: Coastal Highway and South Division St., and Routes 50 and 611 in West Ocean City. In total, more than $1.5 million has been invested in education efforts and engineering improvements along Coastal Highway and other state-owned roadways in Ocean City.
“Engineers constantly monitor and evaluate the roadway system by retiming signals, enhancing turning movements at intersections, placing ‘no pedestrian crossing’ curb stencils and installing signs in key areas along Coastal Highway to direct pedestrians to safe crossings,” Drewer said. “We are dedicated to improving engineering efforts in partnership with the Town of Ocean City.”
Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan pointed out there are up to eight lanes of traffic on Coastal Highway with a significant increase in cars, pedestrians and bicyclists during the summer months. The Town of Ocean City has one of Maryland’s largest populations during the summer with a changing population each week.
“Here we are in 2015 kicking this off just in time as we enter the busiest part of the summer,” Mayor Meehan said. “In Ocean City, each week we have 200,000 new people coming into town, so we have to continue to repeat our message to make sure that everybody is aware of the Walk Smart Campaign … There has been a lot of meetings since last year, and significant changes in our programs. We are continuing to see pedestrian incidents decrease and we want to continue that … Safety is the number one priority in Ocean City. We want everyone to arrive safely, be safe while they’re here, and return home safely.”
Maryland Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Dennis Schrader recognized the grass roots effort of enhancing pedestrian safety in Ocean City has begun to influence changes throughout the state.
“The bottom line is our efforts are working, and since the launch of the Ocean City Walk Smart Campaign in 2013 there have been no pedestrian fatalities in the Town of Ocean City, which is terrific. We have to stay vigilant and focused on our efforts. We are going to continue to make progress,” Schrader said. “Gov. [Larry] Hogan is concerned over getting to Ocean City a lot safer. He just announced $2 million in highway funding, and that included $160 million to widen MD 404 in Queen Anne’s, Talbot and Caroline counties to go from a two-lane to a four-lane divided highway. He also delivered Worcester County’s number one transportation priority by investing $65 million to widen US 113 to a four-lane divided highway. This way motorist will not only be safe going to and from Ocean City but with the Walk Smart Campaign they will be safer while they’re here enjoying their vacation.”
OCPD Captain Kevin Kirstein announced after an initial uptick in pedestrian-related crash injuries that number has fallen this season.
“I can tell you so far this summer we are down 60 percent in our pedestrian crashes and we are extremely excited about that. That means 60 percent less times that we have to make those horrible phone calls to a loved one saying there has been a tragedy,” Kirstein said. “The statistics are something that we should be very proud of, and we hope if you have an encounter with a police officer you take from that the officer was looking out for your safety, and trying to make sure the memory you have of your Ocean City vacation is a great one, a positive one and not of tragedy. Walk smart, bike smart, and drive smart while enjoying your time in Ocean City, MD.”
At the conclusion of the get together, OC Walk Smart partners unveiled the campaign’s mascot, “Crab the Lifeguard”, who will engage the community and remind pedestrians to use crosswalks and wait for signals. Drivers also must stay alert, stop for pedestrians and travel the posted speed limit. Bicyclists need to ride with traffic and obey stop signs and red lights.