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Transit Advocate: More is Needed to Make Germantown Road Safer

In light of the recent death of Germantown teen, Action Committee for Transit board member says speed cameras, signs and ‘culture change’ could help improve pedestrian safety

The vice president of a Montgomery County-based transit advocacy group says speed cameras and a change in “driver culture” were needed to improve pedestrian safety on Germantown Road, where a teen pedestrian was fatally struck by a car.

"Lots of people say she was killed because she was careless—if she had waited for the walk signal, crossed in the cross walk and watched out for traffic, she would still be alive,” said Miriam Schoenbaum, who was speaking during a meeting of the Action Council for Transit on Tuesday in Silver Spring.

“She was killed because our society believes the convenience of drivers is more important than the lives of pedestrians," Schoenbaum said.

Germantown Road (MD 118) is a state-owned roadway that sweeps past Germantown Town Center, where increased development has boosted foot and automobile traffic.

On the morning of Oct. 31, Christina Morris-Ward was attempting to cross Germantown Road near Wisteria drive on her way to Seneca Valley High School. But she was struck by a car travelling north on a green signal.

Schoenbaum said she thinks a speed camera on the northbound portion of Germantown Road, before Wisteria Drive, would help improve pedestrian safety. She said she’d also like to see more “watch for pedestrian” signs.

It's unclear whether speed was a factor in the Oct. 31 crash. The driver was not charged in the incident, according to police.

The State Highway Administration notes that the speed limit on Germantown Road was recently reduced from 50 to 40 miles per hour between Father Hurley Bulevard and Aircraft Drive. The speed reduction was spurred, in part, by a crash involving a Northwest High School graduate who was killed after his vehicle collided with a trash hauler at Germatnown and Middlebrook roads.

The intersection where Morris-Ward was struck is marked by crosswalks and count-down pedestrian signals that were installed in 2011, SHA spokesman David Buck told Patch.

Schoenbaum said this alone wasn’t enough to improve safety for people on foot since most people are used to experiencing that intersection from behind the driver’s seat, making them less sympathetic to pedestrians who get hit.

For one, the distance between Middlebrook and Wisteria Drive were nearly a fifth of a mile, a quick distance to cover if you’re in the car but a tempting reason to cut mid block if you're on foot.

"It's the culture we need to change,” she said. “Not pedestrians.”

Fran Asbeck November 15, 2012 at 01:11 PM
I'd like to observe that a speed (or a red light) camera detected violation does not penalize the offending driver. It captures the license tag number, which leads to, not the driver, but the owner of the vehicle, who may well not have been behind the wheel at the time. It seems to me that there is a due process issue here.
airtime November 15, 2012 at 02:13 PM
I don't have all of the information regarding what happened in this accident. However, as a driver in Montgomery County, I'm getting a little tired of being blamed for pedestrian accidents. The county and state don't invest in crosswalk signals for nothing. If EVERYONE would use common sense Montgomery County would be safer. I can't tell you how many times I have narrowly hit someone that walked out from behind a parked car in dark clothing. Ride-On Buses parked in no parking zones around Germantown Town Center hide people that are trying to cross the street. Street lights that are out, I counted nine on Crystal Rock Drive the other day. Yes, I'm sure drives share the blame but we don't deserve all of the blame.
Barbara November 15, 2012 at 06:39 PM
I agree with airtime completely. The only answer I can come up with for this Nanny State is that we do not allow anyone to cross a road without a police escort. Maybe Ms. Schoenbaum would like to be the first volunteer for this action.
Jenn November 16, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Just like driver's have to follow rules on the road. So should pedestrians. The police need to be sitting/standing around these intersections by the high schools and issue jay walking tickets. That would solve the problem of kids and adults crossing when there not suppose to.

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