OCEAN CITY – Following a sharp increase in pedestrian crashes last summer, a new Walk Smart campaign has been initiated to spread pedestrian safety awareness in Ocean City starting this summer.
On Tuesday afternoon, Karen Waggoner of the Maryland Highway Safety Office came before the Mayor and City Council to request permission for projects sent forward by the Ocean City Pedestrian Safety Committee (OCPSC).
Waggoner has been working with the committee that is made up of representatives of the State Highway Administration (SHA), Ocean City Public Works Department, the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, the Worcester County Health Department, area business owners and more.
“I have to say it is by far the best committee I have ever worked with as far as people being interested, concerned and working hard, so kudos to the people in Ocean City,” she said.
The OCPSC was formed to help reduce the number of pedestrian crashes that have occurred in Ocean City. SHA Assistant District Engineer Ken Cimino is the chair of the committee.
“We are taking a three-pronged approach to pedestrian safety in Ocean City, which is the three E’s, engineering, education and enforcement,” Waggoner explained.
Cimino was absent during the presentation due to illness, and unable to speak in detail over engineering issues.
“But I can tell you the speed limit is something that has been on the table. It has been discussed and there have been traffic studies,” Waggoner said.
Waggoner requested permission to have city employees to wear T-shirts on casual Friday’s in the summer to serve as a reminder of pedestrian safety to summer visitors.
The Maryland Highway Safety Office will purchase the shirts that will be in the bright highway safety green color with a Walk Smart logo on the back and a small “OC” logo on the front. The design is not finalized.
“We were thinking for public works people that are out all the time would be visible, especially on Fridays when new groups of people are coming into the city, to serve as a reminder because most of the pedestrian crashes happen on the weekend,” she said.
SHA would also like to produce buttons with the same Walk Smart message for city employees to wear during the week and distribute to the area bars and restaurant workers to wear. Additionally, it was suggested to produce Walk Smart window clings for city offices and local businesses to display.
“We have a lot more things that are going to be going on, including banner planes and the bus stops,” Waggoner said. “The bars and restaurants have been wonderful in the committee and supportive. They are also going to help us with some projects.”
Public Works Director Hal Adkins supported the idea of having his employees sport the pedestrian safety awareness T-shirts but cautioned placing bumper stickers on trashcans that would promote additional graffiti.
“The existence of that sticker promotes more stickers … as a compromise if you wanted to do so I would ask that you limit that exposure to the cans on the beach but not the ones on the Boardwalk and not the ones at the bus stops,” he said. “It would create a nightmare for us.”
Councilman Brent Ashley presented figures distributed by the Insurance institute for Highway Safety.
In 2010, 70,000 pedestrians were injured and 4,280 pedestrians were killed, which equates to 13 percent of motor vehicle deaths. Also, 35 percent of the fatally injured pedestrians age 16 and over had blood alcohol levels above 0.08. Between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., this figure rose to 51 percent.
According to the 2012 Ocean City Police Department year-end report, alcohol was a factor in over 60 percent of the pedestrian involved collisions dealing with the motor vehicle operator and pedestrian. Drunk driving arrest were up by almost 67 percent. Pedestrian accidents rose from 27 in 2011 with no fatalities to 44 in 2012 with two fatalities.
“I think the Walk Smart campaign is a great idea as are some of the other strategies such as signal timing, signal phasing and speed reduction,” Ashley said. “However, in my mind, these measures treat the symptoms but not the disease. Perhaps the campaign slogan should be ‘Walk Smart-Live Smart-Don’t Drink’.”
Waggoner responded she will take back Ashley’s recommendation to the committee.
“This is just a small piece that we are doing,” she said. “The bars are a huge focus for us because a lot of the pedestrian crashes are happening at closing time, and I will say Seacrets, Macky’s and some of the others have been attending the meetings and are doing whatever they can to help us.” The council voted 6-0, with Councilwoman Margaret Pillas absent, to approve the OCPSC requests so that SHA can move forward in producing Walk Smart campaign items.