- The Washington Times - Monday, April 5, 2004

Area police officials are conducting a regionwide pedestrian sting this month as part of a public safety campaign funded by state and local governments.

The $375,000 Street Smart campaign — which began yesterday and will continue for the next four weeks — offers overtime pay to uniformed police officers throughout the region for strolling along crosswalks and stopping any vehicles that refuse to yield the right of way.

“We’re hoping the campaign will make drivers think twice about roaring through intersections during tourist season,” said D.C. police Sgt. Stephen R. Barton, with the District’s Traffic Safety Unit. “We also want to educate pedestrians and get bikers to wear protective gear.”

Drivers who are pulled over during pedestrian stings, which typically occur during the day, will receive citations according to local county or city laws.

Authorities are targeting those crosswalks in Maryland, Virginia and the District that have a high rate of pedestrian injuries, including the Langley Park area.

More than 60 officers in Takoma Park, and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have already been committed to the project.

“This time, there’s really an enforcement component,” said Mary McAndrew of the District-based Design House, which created Street Smart’s advertising campaign. “We’ve also got slightly higher funding this year than in the past.”

Rachel Lyons, an account manager for Design House, said the Street Smart ads will saturate regional cable TV channels — including Cox Cable and Comcast — as well as radio stations, Metro bus-stop walls, and the backs of Metro buses.

She said her office has taken special pains to translate every advertisement into Spanish.

“We have found that newly arrived immigrants don’t walk the way we do here,” Ms. Lyons said. “There’s an effort to focus on the Hispanics, in particular.”

At a press conference to announce the campaign yesterday, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan said public officials want to send a unified public safety message to drivers and pedestrians in the region.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly said the campaign will give much-needed publicity to a neglected area of public safety.

“We have not paid enough attention to pedestrian safety,” he said.

According to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), an average of 85 pedestrians are killed and more than 2,600 are injured each year in the metro area.

A demographic breakdown of the victims is not available.

Seven pedestrians were killed and 237 injured in Fairfax County in 2002. Fifteen persons were killed and 388 injured in Montgomery County that year. The District had 19 fatalities last year, and one so far this year.

During yesterday’s press conference, local officials also demonstrated a laser-detection system that when installed at crosswalks warns drivers that pedestrians are crossing the street.

Two posts on either side of the four-lane crosswalk exchange a laser beam. When a person enters a crosswalk, he or she breaks the beam, which triggers several optic green lights that are embedded in the road. The lights start flashing at oncoming traffic.

Michael J. Farrell, a transportation planner for COG, said the technology is an example of future innovations.

“It’s superior to flashers, because flashers are on all the time, and people tune them out,” he said. “The optic lights only flash at drivers when pedestrians are in the crosswalk.”

Mr. Farrell said Wilson Boulevard in Arlington County and a parking lot at the Maryland Highway Safety Office are currently the only “live” examples of runway lighting technology.

“I think it will catch on,” he said.

Mr. Farrell said the runway lighting also could be used to protect jaywalkers who don’t use crosswalks.

“We try to encourage people to cross at crosswalks,” he said. “But people need to cross the street, and sometimes the nearest crosswalk is half a mile away.”

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