Rash Of Pedestrian Accidents Leaves Community Shaken
The scene along Old Court Road and Estates Court on May 10 has become one all too familiar in Baltimore County in recent weeks.
Police and EMS providers responded at 7:44 a.m. that day to a report of a crash involving a 2009 Honda CRV and a pedestrian. The victim, Damien Graham, 30, of the 3500 block of Edmondson Avenue, was killed; the driver of the car was transported to Northwest Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
According to police, the crash remains under investigation, and no charges have been filed. However, police do report that the victim was not in a crosswalk.
Graham’s death represents the seventh pedestrian-related accident in Baltimore County since March 15 and the fourth this month. The latest accident comes a week after local pharmacist Mel Pachino, 52, of the 2700 block of Waco Court, was struck by a car May 3 as he rode his bike on Smith Avenue in Pikesville.
Pachino, a member at Suburban Orthodox Congregation Toras Chaim, was traveling westbound on Smith Avenue when Shunji Watanabe, of the 7600 block of Carla Road, made a left turn from eastbound Smith Avenue and struck Pachino. That investigation is ongoing, and charges are pending.
Baltimore County police spokeswoman Cpl. Cathy Batton said the department is aware of the recent spike in pedestrian accidents and says several factors have contributed.
“The weather is warmer now, and there are more people out riding bikes, more people out walking and running and more kids playing outside,” Batton said. “It’s important during this time for drivers to pay attention and for pedestrians to take preventative measure to ensure their safety.”
Many area parents are heeding that warning, as two of the recent pedestrian accidents involved 9-year-old girls.
On May 3, Kalina Brockington was crossing Milford Mill Road when she ran into the path of a vehicle traveling northbound. She was struck by a 2011 Nissan Versa operated by a 61-year-old Randallstown woman.
The child was transported by ground to the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Trauma Center for treatment of potentially life-threatening injuries. The driver stopped at the scene, and no citations have been issued.
This came just two days after Amaria Gould of Hawthorne was struck and killed by a car, as she and her family prepared to walk to a nearby snowball stand. Police said Gould entered the roadway in the area of Graythorn Road and Grovethorn Road from between two cars and crossed in front of a 2010 Dodge Charger, which struck the child. The driver remained at the scene, and no citations have been issued.
Batton said it is vital for parents to remind children to look both ways before crossing a street, not to run between parked cars and to always try to cross a street at a crosswalk. She added that cyclists should try to use bike trails when possible, follow all traffic laws and have reflective gear on their bikes and/or clothing.
“A few simple steps can go a long way toward saving someone’s life,” Batton said.
Owings Mills attorney Diana Denrich expressed similar sentiments. She said she is constantly worried about the safety of her two children, Gabe, 6, and Maddie, 3.
“My kids know to look both ways, and we always hold hands,” Denrich said. “I am always concerned about erratic drivers since kids are unpredictable and they feel invincible.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 4,432 pedestrian fatalities nationally in 2011. That represents a nearly 8 percent increase since 2009 when there were 4,109 fatalities. However, the NHTSA also reports that fatalities in 2011 are down 9.5 percent from 2001 (4,901).
In Maryland, pedestrian fatalities in motor vehicle crashes have remained relatively static in recent years with 102 reported in 2011 and 2010 compared to 116 in both 2007 and 2008, according to the NHTSA.
Dr. Steven Pinson, a Pikesville optometrist, said more needs to be done to educate motorists about how to deal with pedestrians and cyclists. Dr. Pinson, 61, rides his bike three times a week with a group of friends and said it can be “scary” on the road even as he tries to adhere to all the rules.
“Cyclists have the same rights to the road as a motorist, but it just seems that many motorists consider us nothing more than an annoyance,” Dr. Pinson said. “It’s important that both motorists and cyclists follow traffic laws, but many motorists seem more concerned about speeding around rather than taking an extra second to ensure everyone is safe.
“What’s so difficult about taking that extra second? If you hit someone, it is a life-changing event for everyone involved. Obviously, the victim will deal with injuries, if they aren’t killed. Then, the motorist could face lawsuits and/or criminal charges along with the guilt that comes with hitting a fellow human being.”
Maryland State Highway Administration spokeswoman Lora Rakowski said her agency is constantly examining ways to improve area roads, to educate the public on safety issues and to enforce existing motor vehicle laws.
“Pedestrian safety is really a two-way street,” Rakowski said. “Motorists need to pay attention and obey all the laws, but pedestrians and cyclists need to do their part, too. It’s so important to know the rules of the road, look before crossing the street, be visible to oncoming traffic and cross at a crosswalk, even if that means taking a few extra seconds or minutes because that is where drivers mostly expect to see pedestrians.”
Donations in biker Mel Pachino’s honor can be made to Bikur Cholim of Baltimore, 2808 Steele Road, Baltimore, MD 21209 or online athttp://baltimorebikurcholim.org/donate/.
Be predictable. Stay off freeways and restricted zones. Use sidewalks where provided. Cross or enter streets where it is legal to do so.
Crosswalks and traffic lights don’t stop cars! The walk signal does not mean it is safe to cross. It only means it is your turn to cross. Check to make sure all traffic has come to a stop before crossing.
Look. Stopped vehicles may be blocking your view of moving traffic.
Wear bright clothes to be seen day or night. At night, wear reflective materials.
Always walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, always walk on the side of the road facing traffic.
Step aside. Stand on the side of the road while waiting for the bus, and always stand at least 10 feet away from where the bus will stop.
Don’t drink and walk. Alcohol and drugs can impair your ability to walk safely, just like they do a person’s ability to drive.
Connect. Try to make eye contact with the driver(s) to make sure they see you before you begin to cross.
DRIVERS, DO YOUR PART
Stop. Always come to a complete stop at a stop sign or stop light.
Let people cross. Stop for pedestrians who are in a crosswalk, even if it is not marked. When you stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, stop well back so that drivers in the other lanes can also see the pedestrian in time to stop.
Children Come First. Be especially attentive around schools and in neighborhoods where children are active.
Recheck: When you are turning, you often will have to wait for a “gap” in traffic. Be aware that while you are watching for that “gap,” pedestrians may have moved into your intended path.
Be extra attentive. Slow down in school and work zones where increased pedestrian presence is likely.
Clean up. Keep your windshield clean for maximum visibility.
Source: Maryland Department of Transportation
Ron Snyder is a JT staff reporter — firstname.lastname@example.org