- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2001

Parents and children stood with police officers and politicians at 50 intersections across Montgomery County yesterday to ask drivers and pedestrians not to take for granted something as simple as crossing the street.
The countys first "Safe Neighborhood Day" was marked by activists in Bethesda, Silver Spring and Chevy Chase wielding radar guns and waving signs that read "Drive with care, walk with caution" and "Give kids a brake." The event was designed to draw attention to pedestrian safety.
"In Montgomery County, the priority is clearly that we have to eliminate these tragedies," said County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, noting that for the past five years the number of pedestrian fatalities in the county has exceeded the number of homicides.
He called the three intersections he visited yesterday — Colesville Road and Sligo Creek Parkway, Arliss Street and Piney Branch Road in Silver Spring, and Wilson Lane and Whittier Boulevard in Bethesda — "examples of the different problems weve encountered."
Last year, Montgomery County recorded 16 pedestrian fatalities, compared with 15 homicides. In 1999, U.S. Transportation Department figures showed that the county led the metropolitan areas four largest jurisdictions, with 18 pedestrian fatalities. The District and Prince Georges County each recorded 16, while Fairfax County had 13.
Two pedestrians were killed in Montgomery County in the past two weeks, bringing this years total so far to three — one fewer than at this time last year.
Pam Miller, a Bethesda advertising executive, organized yesterdays events. "Safe Neighborhood Day is about bringing people together who have had enough of aggressive driving in our community," she said.
Ms. Miller described how she watched as a car carrying her father and 12-year-old daughter backed out of her driveway onto a road with a 30 mph speed limit and was hit by a speeding motorist 18 months ago. No one was seriously hurt, but she said the accident was a "defining moment" that made her look at her neighborhood and her daughters safety in a new light.
"I knew that we as a community had to come together to make our streets saner, our communities safer," she said.
Ms. Miller secured an appointment as a citizen member of a panel Mr. Duncan appointed last June to explore solutions to the safety crisis.
Delegate Bill Bronrott, Bethesda Democrat, heads the panel. Yesterday he said the areas that needed to be addressed are education (including reaching out to non-English-speaking residents), more consistent and visible enforcement, and smarter engineering designs for crosswalks.
"Crossing the street should not feel like some sort of death-defying act," Mr. Bronrott said.
The panel is not expected to issue a final report until December, but Mr. Duncan this year earmarked $1.2 million of the countys $2.7 billion budget to implement recommendations from an interim report submitted by the committee.
The budget funds a $50,000 public education program, as well as 15 new red-light cameras and a handful of new public safety positions.
"We can do more. We can stop these pedestrian fatalities," Mr. Duncan said.
Ms. Miller said she was "thrilled" by the attention paid to yesterdays rally. She said she likely will organize another Safe Neighborhood Day for October, shortly after the school year begins, and then make it an annual event.

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