OCEAN CITY – State and local leaders officially launched the 2014 Walk Smart! Campaign in Ocean City this week, announcing the effort will be reaching out to Delaware beaches for the first time.
Officials hope to continue the success of last year’s efforts that contributed to a reduction in pedestrian crashes. This summer Walk Smart! partners are expanding the effort in Ocean City and planning to hit Delaware’s beaches.
The Walk Smart!Campaign reminds residents and visitors of roadway basics, such as using crosswalks and signals, and because pedestrian safety is a two-way street, the effort also includes messages directed to drivers to stay alert and stop for pedestrians.
Last year’s campaign saw a 50-percent decrease in pedestrian-related crashes as well as no pedestrian fatalities along Coastal Highway. This year, Crab the Lifeguard dons a bike helmet and talks about bicycle safety and crosses state lines to impart the rules of the road to keep pedestrians safe.
“It is hard to believe it has been over 18 months since we started on the path to establishing the Walk Smart! Campaign in Ocean City. Things like this just don’t happen. It is a result of a lot of hard work, time and commitment of many people,” Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan said. “We have a real challenge here in Ocean City. We have year-round residents but we have new visitors coming to Ocean City every single week. We have to continue to repeat that message every single week during the summer and into the off-season, and we were able to successfully do that.”
Coastal Highway carries up to eight lanes of traffic and more cars, pedestrians and bicyclists during the summer months than in all nine months of fall, winter and spring combined.
“No matter where our travels take us, the rules of the road must prevail. As drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, we need to stay alert and place safety first, use cross walks and share the road. Drive smart, walk smart and bike smart – so that everyone arrives home safely,” Maryland State Highway Administrator Melinda Peters said. “We thank Ocean City and Delaware for being such strong partners in the Walk Smart! Campaign, and for their leadership in traffic safety.”
According to Peters, SHA is continuing its engineering efforts to increase pedestrian safety with additional signing, timing signals, curb markings and this spring a mid-block pedestrian signal crosswalk on Coastal Highway at 54th Street was added.
SHA has also worked on removing some of the depressed curbs in the medians where it gives the perception it is a crosswalk but is not and will continue that effort into the fall as well as adding and expanding curb bump outs and sidewalks.
“The bottom line is there is no reason why people can’t have a safe vacation here and enjoy their time at the beach but while vacationing do so responsibly, celebrate the summer, and enjoy our beautiful beaches here in Ocean City,” Peters said.
The crab lifeguard illustration will again remind pedestrians to use crosswalks, follow signals and exercise general street smarts. It will appear on Ocean City transit, plane banners, boat billboard messages, roadside billboards, television and radio public announcements and in local businesses. This summer, the crab will also appear at Delaware beaches along Route 1.
“Congratulations to all of you on the successes that you saw last year with the Walk Smart! Campaign and we look forward to parlaying those successes that you saw in this city up and down the coast of Delaware from Fenwick Island through Lewes,” Delaware Office of Highway Safety Director Jana Simpler said.
According to Simpler, in 2013 Delaware experienced 26 pedestrian fatalities state-wide. Six of them were in Sussex County, and for each pedestrian killed in Delaware there was another 13 injured. In addition, from 2011 to 2013, there were 20 pedestrian involved crashes along the Route 1 corridor in Delaware.
“In an effort to address these increases in pedestrian injuries and fatalities, we partnered with the Maryland Highway Safety Office in Ocean City to prevent pedestrian involved crashes both states experience during the busy beach months with a consistent safety message, outreach and education that will be heard and seen from Delaware to Maryland beaches,” Simpler said.
Vigilant police enforcement and education by Town of Ocean City Police, Maryland State Police and agencies in Delaware will address drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians who are not following the rules of the road.
“As we know, the summer is well underway. There are hundreds of pedestrians walking up and down Coastal Highway from the Inlet all the way to the Delaware line. We have one primary goal, and that is to keep those pedestrians safe,” Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro said. “Our officers are diligently educating pedestrians who still unfortunately choose to cross the streets unsafely. The simple act of our officers approaching pedestrians that have crossed streets unsafely has proven to get the message across. That individual will remember the officer that approached them for the rest of their vacation. They will think twice when crossing against a signal the next time. It is all in the spirit of public safety.”
Buzzuro added in 2014 the campaign is also encouraging bicyclists to bike smart.
“All too often we see cyclists disobeying traffic laws, which could lead to serious injury and tragedy that could be avoided. There are three tips for cyclists to remember. Always ride with the flow of traffic, ride as far to the right of the road as possible, and last but not least follow all the rules of the road,” he said. “Let’s all remember; let’s walk smart, let’s bike smart, let’s drive smart, and let’s have another safe and fantastic summer.”