OCEAN CITY — Despite two vehicle-pedestrian collisions in the span of less than a week in Ocean City, early season figures continue to show signs of decline.
A pedestrian was struck by a vehicle around 8 a.m. last Saturday morning in the area of 23rd Street and Philadelphia Ave. The unidentified pedestrian was crossing the road against the signal and was struck by a vehicle traveling roughly 25 mph. The pedestrian was transported to PRMC by Ocean City EMS with minor injuries not believed to be life-threatening.
Last Saturday’s collision was the second of the young season in the resort. Around 10 p.m. on Sunday, May 24, a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle in the area of 44th Street and Coastal Highway. Like last Saturday’s incident, the pedestrian crossed the highway in a crosswalk against a pedestrian signal. Unlike last Saturday, alcohol was a factor in the incident.
Despite two incidents in the span of six days, the figures show the number of incidents involving pedestrians and motor vehicles continues to decline, thanks in large part by an aggressive public awareness campaign and a combined effort to improve pedestrian safety in the resort, particularly at troublesome intersections.
In the wake of one of the most dangerous summers in recent memory in 2012, the Town of Ocean City, the State Highway Administration (SHA) and the Maryland Office of Highway Safety embarked on a multi-year, systematic process of reducing collisions with increases signage, more marked crosswalks, more countdown clocks at certain troublesome intersections with longer cross times and other improvements.
There appears to be a direct correlation between the improvements and the aggressive public service message campaign and the number of incidents, but with the arrival of June Bug season, typically the worse time of the summer for pedestrian-vehicle collisions, town officials are keeping their collective fingers crossed and hoping the message is hitting home. Just one week into June, the early figures look promising.
“At this time last year, we had already had five pedestrian collisions,” said OCPD spokesperson Lindsay Richard on Wednesday. “At this time in 2013, we had already had 19. Thankfully, no pedestrian collisions, or any motor vehicle collisions for that matter, have been fatal since June 2012.”
Indeed, the summer of 2012 might have been the benchmark for pedestrian-vehicle collisions and the catalyst for many of the changes that have taken place over the last three years. In 2012, there were 44 total collisions including two fatalities. In 2013, the number dropped to 26 total collisions and zero fatalities, and last year there were 33 pedestrian-vehicle collisions and zero fatalities.
Town officials believe, and the numbers suggest, the changes are working, but there could also be some degree of luck. With the arrival of June Bugs and the summer season and individuals and packs of people young and old still dashing across the crowded highway in the dark or the rain or fog, those statistics will likely be tested in the coming weeks. In the meantime, the town and the police department will continue to hammer the message home, according to Richard, who met with the pedestrian safety committee just this week.
“The pedestrian safety committee, which includes town of Ocean City staff, the Ocean City Police Department, State Highway Administration and Maryland Highway Safety Office, has been working hard yet again this winter to make sure the ‘Walk Smart’ message gets out there to our residents and visitors,” she said. “In recent months, the State Highway Administration has made a number of safety improvements to our roadways to make it easier for citizens to cross the street safely, such as the new pedestrian signal at 101st Street near the Clarion Hotel.”
While the campaign largely targets pedestrians, Richard emphasized this week the motorists share an equal responsibility to highway safety.
“Motorists are also reminded to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks,” she said. “This is especially pertinent on Baltimore Avenue where there are a number of crosswalks not located at signal intersections. Drivers should also check for pedestrians crossing an intersection when turning and yield to them.”
To that end, the familiar Walk Smart Crab will continue to make its presence felt around the resort.
“Residents and visitors will continue to see a lot of the Walk Smart Crab throughout the town as a constant reminder to use the crosswalk and wait for the signal to change before crossing,” she said. “We continue to encourage citizens to use the crosswalks and wait for the signals to change before crossing and we are looking forward to another safe summer.”