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Maryland sees 8.5 percent decrease in roadway fatalities

Linthicum, MD - Last year 511 people lost their lives in vehicle crashes across Maryland, according to data released today at the annual Maryland Highway Safety Summit. Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Deputy Secretary Jim Ports, MDOT Motor Vehicle Administrator Chrissy Nizer and Maryland Transportation Authority Police Chief Col. Jerry Jones gathered with law enforcement officials, safety advocates and transportation agencies to unveil the 2018 statistics.

The figures reflect an 8.5 percent reduction in the number of crash fatalities compared to 2017, when 558 people were killed. The 2018 figures were also lower than the 2016 number of 522 traffic deaths.

“While this decrease in fatalities is a step in the right direction, 511 people were taken from their families, friends and communities,” said MDOT Deputy Secretary Ports. “Every death on our roadways is preventable. Safety partners from across the state are here today to look at trends and outline the next steps to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, the loss of life on our roads.”

The Maryland Highway Safety Summit is an annual meeting of stakeholders, policy makers, advocates and agency leaders. Among state transportation officials in attendance were MDOT State Highway Administration Administrator Greg Slater, MDOT Maryland Transit Administration Administrator Kevin Quinn and Maryland Highway Safety Office Director Dr. Tim Kerns.

The group comes together to develop steps and actions for Maryland’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP), a five-year program with the goal of cutting the number of traffic fatalities and serious injuries in half by 2030. The plan provides 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 four Es – education, engineering, enforcement and emergency medical services – are the foundation of these lifesaving efforts.

“It is important that we look beyond the numbers; these are lives lost and countless injuries and years of trauma because of dangerous and selfish decisions,” said MDOT MVA Administrator Nizer, who also serves as Governor Larry Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative.

“Your best defense in a crash? Always wear your seat belt, never drive impaired, slow down and avoid distractions,” added Administrator Nizer. “Being a safe and responsible traveler is an action each person can take every time they get in a vehicle.”

Each year, the same behaviors are the primary causes of injuries and fatalities on Maryland roads: failing to wear a seat belt, impaired driving, speeding and distraction. Pedestrians and bicyclists are most vulnerable when using our roads. In 2018, 133 pedestrians and six bicyclists were killed, compared to 117 pedestrians and 11 bicyclists in 2017.

Quinn and Slater stressed the need for pedestrians to be responsible and vigilant on Maryland’s highways and rail facilities. Increased vigilance will help keep pedestrians and drivers safe.

“As police, one of the most difficult things to do is to look into someone’s eyes and tell them that their loved one was just killed in a crash,” said Col. Jones. “We write tickets hoping to keep you from getting that knock on your door.”

The press conference message of safety and avoiding distraction was brought home by Jennifer Weaver of Calvert County. Weaver described how her actions as a distracted driver took a man’s life when she rear-ended his stopped vehicle, sending it into oncoming traffic. Weaver had been looking at her cell phone.

MDOT and its partners remind motorists that a few simple steps can save lives:

Buckle Up – Seat belts prevent injuries and stop you from being ejected from your car.
Slow Down – ADAPT your behavior to arrive alive.
Avoid Distractions – Park the Phone before you drive.
Drive Sober – Be Legendary and always have a safe & sober ride home.
Use Crosswalks – And when driving, Look Up/Look Out for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists.
Learn more about the MDOT MHSO’s Toward Zero Deaths campaign at towardzerodeathsmd.com, on Facebook @towardzerodeathsmd, on Twitter @tzd_maryland, and on Instagram @twdzerodeaths_md. All travelers are asked to remember the rules of the road by visiting MDOT MVA’s 2019 Top Ten Resolutions and sharing this information with others.

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