WASHINGTON – Maryland is the 14th most dangerous state for pedestrians, with an average of 130 killed every year, according to a report released this week.
“This is a critical health problem,” said Hank Dittmar, executive director of the Surface Transportation Policy Project, one of two nonprofit environmental groups that released the findings Tuesday.
“Cities have sacrificed the pedestrians to the automobiles,” said Sierra Club activist John Baer, 66, of Annapolis, a consultant on the project. “Kids cannot walk to the local store.”
Eighteen percent of all fatal traffic accidents in Maryland involve the death of pedestrians, the report said. The national average is 14 percent.
The groups recommended greater use of speed bumps; installing protected spaces for walkers, such as sidewalks and crosswalks; adding handrails for the handicapped; and increasing public awareness of pedestrian safety issues.
Group spokesmen admonished state governments for failing to take advantage of federal funds targeted for pedestrian safety programs.
Richard Wiles, vice president of research for the Environmental Working Group, which co-authored the study, said Maryland has used none of its federal highway funds for pedestrian safety since 1992.
California recorded the most pedestrian fatalities, with an average of 901 every year from 1986 to 1995, the report said. The state, like Maryland, spent no highway money on pedestrian safety from 1992 to 1996.
Wyoming logged the fewest pedestrian deaths, with an average of five deaths each year from 1986 to 1995. It spent 4.3 percent of its highway money on pedestrian safety, from 1992 to 1996, the environmental groups reported.
Dittmar said states need to remember that walking is a mode of transportation and should be getting a fair share of the funding allocated for transportation safety programs.
But state and local officials called the report misleading. They said a lot is already being done to promote pedestrian safety.
Elizabeth Baker, who coordinates traffic safety programs for the Maryland State Highway Administration, said the National Highway Safety Administration gave the state $3 million this year for highway safety projects. From this grant, $1.3 million was distributed to counties for pedestrian safety programs, she said.
For instance, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties have pedestrian safety program coordinators, she said.
Kurt Kocher, spokesman for the Baltimore City Department of Public Works, said the city is participating in a pilot study on pedestrian safety funded from a separate pot of federal funds.
The $399,572 pedestrian behavioral study, started in Baltimore in 1995, is also designed to raise pedestrian safety awareness through posters, pamphlets, signs and television and radio advertisements. -30-