Pedestrian Safety a Renewed Concern After Kennedy HS Accident

Andrew Coulibaly, Opinion Managing Editor

Montgomery County is always trying to increase safety for all residents and lately, there have been renewed calls to focus more on pedestrian safety for students after four John F. Kennedy High School (JFK) students were injured in a car crash while waiting at a Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) bus stop Oct. 10.

In the incident, a car struck three girls and a 15-year-old boy near the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Wendy Lane around 7 a.m., leaving the boy in critical condition. The 21-year-old male driver and three girls were all expected to recover quickly, according to an Oct. 9 WTOP article.

Montgomery County Council members have set a special meeting with the State Highway Administration for Nov. 13 to discuss the incident at JFK.

“Cars can be slowed down through reductions in speed limits, but there are many other ways to slow traffic effectively–including but not limited to narrowing individual lane widths, planting trees alongside the roadway(to make the road seem narrower), and changing behavior through photo enforcement [speed cameras],” said Kristy Daphnis, head of the Pedestrian, Bike, Traffic Safety Advisory Committee (PBTSAC) in an interview with The Rampage. The PBTSAC advises County Executive Ike Leggett on how pedestrian safety can be improved and testifies at county council hearings.

It helps pedestrians feel physically safer and prevent things like the JFK accident from happening.             -senior Leo Wagner

In 2017,  Leggett proposed the Vision Zero action plan that aimed to reduce pedestrian fatalities to zero by 2030. The plan is based on a Swedish plan to reduce pedestrian fatalities. Rather than exclusively faulting drivers and other users of the transportation system, Vision Zero places the core responsibility for accidents on the overall system design, addressing infrastructure design, vehicle technology and enforcement, according to the Center for Active Design website.  

Senior Leo Wagner interned for the City of Rockville’s Community Planning & Development Services (CPDS) which handles planning, property development and construction for the city of Rockville. Wagner agrees with Daphnis that changes need to be made to to slow drivers down.

When roads have narrower lanes and trees closeby making the road feel narrower, drivers are forced to slow down, which improves pedestrian safety, Wagner said.

“It helps pedestrians feel physically safer and prevent things like the JFK accident from happening,” he added

RHS controls traffic on Baltimore road in various ways. School resource officer (SRO) Jask Arosoo helps control the traffic light on Baltimore Rd. after school. Security officers assist students using crosswalks in the morning and afternoons. Assistant principal John Haas has helped refine the dismissal process for students.

“Largely it’s traffic control rather than pedestrian safety. There will be times where you see the police officer out on the road,” Arosoo said. “Depending on who the SRO is, we have access to the panel which controls the [traffic] light. When it’s time to release the buses we can make sure to stop all traffic on either way to make sure the everyone can safely leave.”