Greater Greater Washington

Mean Streets: Hit-and-run becomes kill-and-run

Last week's controversy surrounding the removal of the ghost bike should remind us that people from all walks of life die every day while using our region's transportation system. While we often hear of car crashes or injury on the roads, the impact of these tragic occurrences often becomes dulled by their regularity.


Photo by M.V. Jantzen.

Therefore, we're inaugurating a new weekly roundup of injuries and fatalities on our roads and rails. It will highlight the public health consequences of how we have chosen to construct our transportation infrastructure, and remind us how we could create a better and safer transportation future. Readers of Streetsblog will notice that this resembles their feature The Weekly Carnage; Streetsblog has put together a page detailing the many reasons for compiling a roundup of road injuries and fatalities.

The week of September 6 to 12, 2009
On the roads: 9 fatalities, 36 injuries
On the rails: 1 fatality; 0 injuries

A hit-and-run driver killed a pedestrian on Annapolis Road (Route 450) in Lanham around 8:00 pm Thursday. In his report, Fox 5 reporter John Henrehan notes that the speed limit is rarely followed on Route 450 and that the pedestrian was "well away from intersections with traffic lights." Sadly, this man's death is one of many caused by road design that encourages speeding while giving minimal consideration to the needs of pedestrians and cyclists.

Chatting is OK, drinking is not: University of Maryland study shows support for stronger drunk-driving laws, but Maryland drivers still think they are all above average when it comes to cell phone use behind the wheel. (Baltimore Sun)

Automaker steps up: Ford backs federal legislation to pressure states into banning texting while driving. (Post)

"The voice of Washington traffic": The Examiner profiles Lisa Baden, traffic reporter for WTOP and WJLA. Baden is well aware of the sensitivity required when her reporting involves telling listeners and viewers of someone's death on the road: "You have to have empathy and compassion and sensitivity," she says. "People are dying, literally."

The full list of last week's transportation fatalities and injuries:
Too drunk to notice?: Drunk driver slams into dump truck in Leesburg and kills passenger; uninjured, driver keeps going (Post original, Post update)

Bus-on-bus: Charter bus crashes into rear of stopped Metrobus on Good Hope Road SE, injures 19 (Post, Post Get There blog)

Yet another track worker: Rail worker seriously injured after being struck by Metro train north of Braddock Road station (Examiner; UPDATE: worker has died)

In the line of duty: Police officer injured after being struck on New York Avenue near the Third Street tunnel (Post Get There blog)

Upside-down world: Serious crash overturns vehicle, injures three on 295 in Southeast (Post Get There blog)

Lane closures, serious injuries: Bay Bridge crash injures motorcyclist, requires airlift to Maryland Shock Trauma Center (Post)

Emergency behind the wheel: "Medical event" causes driver to lose control of vehicle in Vienna, striking another vehicle and leading to her own death (Vienna Connection)

Turning conflict: 85 year-old Temple Hills driver killed, second driver injured in Waldorf after crash while turning on Route 5 (Gazette)

Drive On: Gaithersburg driver crosses centerline, strikes Ride On bus; kills self, injures two onboard bus (Gazette)

Adjust speed to conditions: Police believe speeding in rainy conditions caused SUV driver to crash, killing self and injuring four passengers in Largo (Gazette)

Speed kills: Speeding driver loses control of vehicle in Fairfax County, dies (WJLA)

Teen tragedy: "Speed and driver error" led to crash in Mount Airy; teenage driver killed, her two friends are injured (Frederick News-Post, WJLA)

Ped-friendly?: Pedestrian struck by hit-and-run driver in downtown Frederick (Frederick News-Post)

Sadly, the road won: Howard County man killed, another injured on Route 32 after vehicle is rear-ended; he had lobbied for improved safety on that very road (Explore Howard). Death spurs a fresh call for SHA to make changes to road (Columbia Flier).

Speed racers: One motorcyclist killed, another in critical condition after colliding in Columbia; speed cited as factor (Columbia Flier)

Aftermath:

Families, friends reel: An Alexandria woman and her 2 year-old grandson were laid to rest last week. While returning from a family trip to Tennessee on September 4, their car was rear-ended by a drunken driver leaving a concert at the Nissan Pavilion (InsideNova.com).

Holding their breath: A vigil was held Thursday in Temple Hills for a 13 year-old girl in the hospital after being struck by a vehicle while boarding a school bus and suffering severe brain trauma (Gazette; the original story and video from Fox 5; UPDATE: The 13 year-old girl has died)

Law and consequences: A 17 year-old who crashed into a tree on Veirs Mill Road in February, killing his passenger, faces charges of speeding, negligent driving and reckless driving (Gazette)

The geographic area we cover is the member jurisdictions of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, plus Howard and Anne Arundel counties.

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Stephen Miller lived in the District from 2008 to 2011 and is now a student at Pratt Institute's city and regional planning masters program. 

Comments

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Note that Ford's support for a ban on texting would not limit the use of Ford's in-car hand's free system that includes text-to-voice.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/11/business/11ford.html

Perhaps they'll be more honest and come right out against outright bans on cellphones in cars?

by ah on Sep 16, 2009 2:28 pm • linkreport

I do not see a problem with Ford being aginst texting becasue they have a text to voice hands free system. Good for them in identifying a problem and creating an afordable solution. I only paid an additional $400 for the bluetooth feature in my ford and it may eventualy become included.

by matt on Sep 16, 2009 3:26 pm • linkreport

This is very thorough. I'd be interested to see sub-tallies by jurisdiction.

How do the licensing requirements in DC, MD, VA compare to each other and to other states?

by Gavin Baker on Sep 16, 2009 3:42 pm • linkreport

Perhaps as this feature matures, you could begin to include arrest/conviction statistics like streetsblog as well? I find that to be the most illustrative of how auto-centric thinking has become so entrenched in our culture.

by JTS on Sep 16, 2009 3:52 pm • linkreport

Sunday fatality at Gallery place doesn't count? Suicide or not, he was still hit by a train.

by local on Sep 16, 2009 4:10 pm • linkreport

Sunday was the 13th.

by reader on Sep 16, 2009 4:34 pm • linkreport

I will add to the streetsblog's reasons for weekly carnage that these types of statistics - small numbers of people, close geographic proximity, timely reporting - has a far greater psychological impact than broader statistic reporting.

As far as text to voice type of technology - it's not really any better than texting or the phone as far as distraction is concerned. Just because you can see the road doesn't mean your brain has any bandwidth to process that information. The point of the studies is that if you are using the language/speech/comprehension part of your brain, that dramatically reduces your ability to process visual information cues and respond to them. This is the same reson taht there are less accidents on streets that have fewer signs/signals/lines - because reading and understanding the signs subtracts from your brains ability to see other vehicles and people on the road.

by Lee on Sep 17, 2009 7:05 am • linkreport

My mistake, didn't see the date range in the box...

by local on Sep 17, 2009 10:37 am • linkreport

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