With the holiday shopping season approaching, County Executive Isiah Leggett Nov. 21 launched an education campaign to address the growing number of pedestrian collisions occurring in parking lots and garages in Montgomery County.

In 2012, parking lot and garage collisions comprised nearly one-third of all pedestrian collisions in the County. What is even more surprising was the finding that nearly 20 percent of the lot/garage collisions in 2012 resulted in severe, debilitating injuries — the same percentage as road collisions.

“Pedestrian collisions in parking lots and garages are on the rise, so we are launching an education campaign this holiday season to raise awareness among drivers and pedestrians about actions they can take to avoid becoming a statistic,” said Leggett.

“Over the last six years, my Pedestrian Safety Initiative has significantly reduced collisions in areas where we have taken a comprehensive and targeted approach. Today, as we launch our ‘Heads Up in Parking Lot’ campaign, “I am also releasing an expansion to the Initiative that takes the same focused approach to reducing the number and severity of parking lot and garage collisions. I am committed to making Montgomery County a model of a truly walkable community, and this commitment extends to every area in the County where pedestrians and vehicles may come into conflict, including parking lots and garages.”

Firefighters from Rockville Fire Station #3 handing
out pedestrian safety shopping bags.
Photo | MCFRS

In 2012, there were 423 reported pedestrian collisions in Montgomery County. Of these collisions, 125 or about 30 percent, occurred in parking lots and garages. Although parking lot collisions represent a significant portion of pedestrian collisions in the County, the assumption had always been that vehicles involved in these collisions were traveling at low speeds and the resulting impacts caused little or no injury. However, in 2012, a more detailed examination of collision data revealed that 18 percent of parking lot collisions that occurred that year resulted in incapacitating injuries. And, overall, 54 percent of parking lot/garage collisions in 2012 resulted in some type of injury.

Leggett launched the education campaign at Dawson’s Market in Rockville Town Center, which is managed by Federal Realty. Immediately following the press event, police officers and firefighters kicked off their holiday season safety campaign, “Shop with a Cop or Firefighter,” by distributing reusable shopping bags and parking lot safety tips to store customers. Through Christmas, police and firefighters will visit some of the County’s busiest shopping areas to remind customers to practice safe driving and walking behaviors in parking lots.

The educational campaign’s slogan, “Heads Up in Parking Lots,” features the message: “Don’t run over people. Don’t get run over.” The campaign consists of Ride On bus ads in English and Spanish; bus shelter ads aimed at pedestrians and drivers; posters in English and Spanish; safety tip cards in English and Spanish available at libraries, recreation and community centers, and stores; distribution of reusable shopping bags featuring a safety message; pavement decals at retail stores, and the 19 County parking garages and 21 County parking lots; two public service announcements: Heads Up in Parking Lots and Don’t run over people. Don’t get run over; and a new website featuring education materials in English and Spanish that can be downloaded and distributed to community, civic, religious and school groups.

While parking lot pedestrian collisions are geographically distributed throughout the County, most are occurring in private retail parking lots. In 2012, 95 percent of the pedestrian collisions occurred in parking lots rather than garages.

To find ways to bring safety messages directly to drivers and pedestrians in parking lots, the County has partnered with retail property managers and owners. The partners are featured on the County’s website and include: Carl M. Freeman Companies; Dawson’s Market; Edens, Germantown Commons; Federal Realty; Foulger-Pratt; the Green Turtle; H & R Retail Inc.; JBG Rosenfeld Retail; Kramer Enterprises; Lakeforest, Urban Retail Properties, LLC; Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Division of Parking Management; The Peterson Companies; Saul Centers; The Tower Companies; and WRIT, Washington Real Estate Investment Trust.

“Because most of the parking lot pedestrian collisions are occurring in retail parking lots, we have reached out to property managers and owners for their help in educating shoppers,” said Leggett. “Their response has been enthusiastic, and I want to sincerely thank them for their willingness to participate in this partnership to reduce needless injuries.”

Leggett’s expansion of his original Pedestrian Safety Initiative is titled: Pedestrian Safety Initiative: Reducing Collisions in Parking Lots and Garages. The strategic plan recommends five strategies to reduce parking lot and garage collisions:
Strategy 1: Identify Research on Parking Lot Pedestrian Safety
Strategy 2: Forge Partnerships
Strategy 3: Conduct Detailed Analysis of Montgomery County Pedestrian Parking Lot Collision Data
Strategy 4: Develop Pedestrian Safety Improvement Strategies for Lots/Garages
Strategy 5: Engage and Educate the Public

Leggett’s original Pedestrian Safety Initiative, released in December 2007, outlined an approach to pedestrian and traffic safety that focused on three essential components: education, engineering and enforcement. The initiative significantly enhanced the County’s investment in educating motorists and pedestrians, keeping enforcement efforts visible and intensive, and aggressively applying the most innovative and pedestrian-friendly road engineering designs.

Some of the achievements of the initiative comparing three year averages before and after implementation are:

Reducing pedestrian collisions by 7 percent.

Reducing by 21 percent the most severe collisions that incapacitate or kill pedestrians .

Reducing collisions by 50 percent in areas where traffic calming measures have been installed.

Reducing collisions by 43 percent In High Incidence Areas (HIAs), locations with the highest concentrations of collisions.

Reducing collisions by 79 percent within a quarter mile of schools targeted for engineering, education and enforcement activities under the Safe Routes to Schools program.

The new Heads Up in Parking Lots campaign offers the following safety tips:

Drivers: Don’t run over people.

Don’t drive distractedly – it’s illegal to hold a phone or text while driving.

Don’t assume pedestrians see you.

Be especially cautious backing out of a space.

Slow down! Parking lots are not speedways.

Pedestrians: Don’t get run over.

Stop talking on the phone and texting while walking. Take out the ear buds.

Don’t assume drivers see you.

Don’t walk behind a vehicle that is backing out.

Be aware and constantly look out for moving vehicles.

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services shared this video featuring advice from Chief Lohr

Click here to view the embedded video.

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