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County officials today announced a crackdown on distracted driving in April and May in an additional effort to reduce severe and fatal collisions among vehicle occupants, bicyclists and pedestrians.
The “Stay Alert, Stay Alive” campaign is part of the county’s adoption of a Vision Zero initiative. The program’s goal is a 35 percent reduction in severe injuries and fatalities caused by distracted driving or walking by November 2019, and no traffic deaths by 2030.
“Montgomery County remains focused on efforts to reduce severe and fatal traffic collisions on our roadways,” said County Executive Ike Leggett in a press release. “Distracted driving and distracted walking are two of the leading causes of crashes in Montgomery County. Today, we are reminding drivers and pedestrians of the need to stay alert to stay alive.”
Councilmember Marc Elrich (D-At Large), Capt. Thomas Didone, director of the Montgomery County Department of Police Traffic Division, and Montgomery County Public Schools Supervisor of Health and Physical Education Cara Grant joined Leggett at today’s announcement.
“Since 2012, Montgomery County has lost an average of 35 residents every year to traffic accidents on our roadways,” said Elrich, chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee. “It will take a concerted effort to get at the problem by increasing awareness and changing behavior through strategic enforcement from county police, effective education programs, and engineered traffic-calming solutions.”
Beginning in April and ending in May, county police will boost enforcement to prevent cell phone use while driving and seat belt violations throughout the county, using unmarked and unconventional vehicles to spot violators.
Under Maryland law, merely holding a cell phone while driving is enough to warrant a fine.
In addition, police will conduct “Operation Safe Ride” at local schools, targeting elementary and middle schools. Traffic officers in select areas around schools will first monitor for drivers’ cell phone use and of seat belt use while driving. They will report the number and types of violations to the schools’ principals, according to the release.
The principals will then do an educational outreach to parents, prior to the officers coming back to the area and conducting strict enforcement.
In addition, the Department of Transportation and MCPS will collaborate during Teen Pedestrian Safety Week (April 23-27) to educate both youth and drivers about the risks of distracted walking and driving.
“Over the last five years, drivers have hit at least 292 teen pedestrians in Montgomery County; five of those teens died,” the release noted.
Finally, “Stay Alert, Stay Alive” campaign information will be shared via social media, e-communications and electronic screens located around the county.