Glen Burnie, Md. – May 8, 2020 – Motor vehicle crashes on Maryland roadways claimed 530 lives in 2019, an increase of 3.7% compared to 512 deaths the previous year. Pedestrian fatalities declined 7.5%, with 123 last year compared to 133 in 2018. The 2019 data, released today by the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), also shows a year-to-year increase in bicyclist fatalities, from six in 2018 to 10 in 2019.
“Tragically, 530 people were taken last year from their families, friends and communities,” said Transportation Secretary Greg Slater. “While everyone is taking extraordinary steps to protect their own lives and the lives of their families during the COVID-19 health emergency, it is critical we all remember the simple steps we can take to save lives every time we get behind the wheel. Please remind your loved ones to wear their seat belt, don’t speed, and don’t drive impaired or distracted. These four actions could have saved the lives of hundreds of Marylanders who died last year.”
The number of deaths on Maryland roadways has fluctuated in recent years. There were 558 fatalities in 2017, including 119 pedestrians and 11 bicyclists. In 2016, 522 people died in state roadway crashes, including 111 pedestrians and 16 bicyclists.
The 2019 data is being announced at a time when vehicle traffic volume across Maryland is down about 45% as drivers heed Governor Larry Hogan’s stay-at-home order limiting non-essential travel due to the COVID-19 health emergency. Truck traffic is down less, about 22%, as truckers continue working to keep Maryland’s supply chain open and deliver critical items to stores, pharmacies and hospitals.
Highway safety officials say despite the overall decrease in traffic volume, dangerous driving behaviors have not taken a back seat. According to Maryland State Police, 69% of speeding citations issued from March 16 to April 17 cited drivers exceeding posted speed limits by 20 mph or higher. More than 375 citations noted speeds of 90 mph or more.
State police increased their presence on highways following a string of tractor trailer crashes involving factors such as speed and distracted driving. Last week MDOT teamed up with state police to spread the word to the trucking industry and all motorists about the importance of maintaining safe speeds on Maryland highways during the COVID-19 emergency.
“We need to protect the safety of the essential workers we count on every day as we navigate this pandemic,” Secretary Slater said. “Stay-at-home heroes are doing their part to stay off the roads. Those who need to travel must do their part and slow down, park the phone, move over for first responders and buckle up – every seat, every time.”
Additionally, while vehicle traffic has decreased during the COVID-19 emergency, pedestrian and bicycle traffic has increased. To keep Maryland’s most vulnerable road users safe, the MDOT MVA Highway Safety Office urges motorists to share the road and respect all traffic safety laws.
“Every time you get behind the wheel, you have the choice and responsibility to drive safely – to protect yourself and other motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians,” said MDOT MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer, who also serves as Governor Larry Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative. “Even now, with fewer drivers on Maryland roads, it’s imperative that we respect the rules of the road and take the time to get to our destinations safely.”
During the COVID-19 emergency, travel should be limited to essential trips – to essential work sites, hospitals, healthcare providers, pharmacies, grocery stores, banks, food distribution centers, the homes of family members who need care, and similar destinations. For those who must travel, MDOT and its partners remind motorists that a few simple steps can save lives:
• Buckle Up: Every Seat, Every Time. In 2018, 105 motor vehicle occupants killed in crashes on Maryland roads were not wearing seat belts. Seat belts are one of the best ways to preserve life in a crash.
• Make a Plan. One-third of fatalities and serious injuries on Maryland roadways involve an impaired driver. Designate a sober driver, be the sober driver or make a plan for a safe and sober ride home through a taxi, a rideshare service or public transportation.
• Park the Phone. Maryland law forbids talking or texting on a handheld phone while driving, including while stopped at a traffic light. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. At a speed of 55 mph, that equates to traveling the length of a football field blindfolded.
• Share the Road. Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians must look up and look out for one another and obey traffic laws and signals. Always stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, marked and unmarked, and give bicyclists at least 3 feet of space when passing.
• Slow Down. Many crashes occur when drivers exceed the speed limit or drive too fast for the conditions. Leave a few minutes early and take some extra time to get to your destination.
While this year’s decline in pedestrian fatalities is good news, pedestrians deaths remain a critical concern, accounting for nearly a quarter of all roadway fatalities. In 2019, MDOT teamed up with the Baltimore Metropolitan Council and local government and law enforcement officials throughout the Baltimore region on a campaign, Look Alive, that used television, outdoor ads, social media and community outreach to stress pedestrian safety and awareness.
Additionally, MDOT State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) is continuing pedestrian safety initiatives in business districts and densely populated areas. Measures include installation of traffic calming features, narrowing of lanes, reducing speeds and constructing continental crosswalks. MDOT SHA also released its draft Context Driven Access and Mobility For All Users guide, a document promoting design solutions to enhance safety and accessibility for pedestrians and non-motorized vehicles.
Stakeholders across Maryland continue to examine trends, share ideas and discuss safety strategies and programs to curb roadway injuries and deaths. In March, work groups held virtual meetings to develop steps for the next edition of Maryland’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP), a five-year program to advance the goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030.
The 2021-2025 SHSP will provide a framework to address major areas of traffic safety: aggressive, impaired and distracted driving, highway infrastructure, seat belt use, and pedestrian and bicyclist safety. The plan will focus on the Four Es – education, engineering, enforcement and emergency medical services – as the foundation for lifesaving initiatives.
“As Maryland completes its next Strategic Highway Safety Plan, we will continue to focus on steps to reduce – and ultimately eliminate – fatalities on our roadways,” Secretary Slater said.
Learn more about the MDOT MVA’s Highway Safety Office’s commitment to zero deaths on Maryland roadways at ZeroDeathsMD.com and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at zerodeathsmd.