Arlington, VA

Local governments are rolling out their annual “Street Smart” campaign with a warning about a recent uptick in the number of people on foot killed by drivers.

This fall, the annual campaign by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) will highlight a 14% increase in the number of pedestrian fatalities between 2017 and 2018 regionwide, from 77 people killed in 2017 to 88 in 2018.

The regional government organization unveiled a wall featuring crash stories told by victims yesterday (Monday) at 12th Street and Florida Avenue NE in D.C. That’s where cyclist and safety activist Dave Salovesh was killed by a speeding driver earlier this year — spurring citywide protests and as well as calls for change in Arlington. The wall project is expected to tour Maryland and Virginia as well, per a MWCOG spokeswoman.

One of the victims featured in the awareness campaign is Ren Werbin (above), who was struck while crossing Wilson Blvd near the Ballston Quarter mall around 11 p.m. on February 1. The impact broke vertebrae in Werbin’s back and shattered her collar bone, shoulder, and leg.

“I went from having a neck brace, to having a full back brace, to having a full leg brace, and not being able to move my right arm,” said Werbin in an interview filmed for the project “My world completely changed.”

Werbin spent three months in the hospital recovering from her injuries. An Arlington County Police spokeswoman told ARLnow that an investigation found that the driver — described in an MWCOG press release as “a teen driver in a car full of friends” who “blasted through an intersection” — had a green light at the time and was not cited.

Another testimonial is from a Rosslyn resident who was struck in a crosswalk.

“It happened so fast,” she recounted. “I walked like a penguin for months. Finally, I walked like a normal person, but I was scared of the streets. The physical pain passes, but it was traumatic.”

The most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates while driving a car has become safer over the years, walking on roads has become more dangerous. And the majority of pedestrian who are killed are hit after dark — a concern that grows later in the year when the hours of daylight wanes in the fall.

Last November saw the highest number of pedestrians hit in the D.C. area (292) out of any other month, per data shared by MWCOG. In Arlington, the month with the highest number of pedestrian collisions (15) was October.

As part of the Street Smart program, area police departments are planning to step up ticketing drivers who fail to stop for people in crosswalks, among other citations aimed at protecting pedestrians and cyclists. In Arlington, that enforcement will be conducted in the Clarendon area and along Columbia Pike next month, according to an ACPD press release.

As part of the Street Smart campaign, officers will conduct high-visibility traffic enforcement at the following locations:

  • November 6th from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. – 2700 block of Clarendon Boulevard (Pedestrian Enforcement Detail)
  • November 27th from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. – Columbia Pike Corridor (Pedestrian Saturation Detail)

In the past, Arlington police officers have typically cited a dozen drivers (including, once, a Metrobus operator) for failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

“The campaign’s key safety tips include reminders for drivers to obey the speed limit, be on the lookout for people walking and biking, stop for people crossing, and yield to pedestrians and bicyclists when turning,” a spokeswoman said in a statement this week. “People walking are urged to cross with caution, use crosswalks where available, and wait for the walk signal. Bicyclists are reminded to follow the rules of the road and always use lights at night.”

ACPD has also urged Halloween party go-ers to not drive drunk, citing the fact that Halloween is by far the deadliest night of the year for pedestrians. Those looking for a safe ride home can take advantage of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program’s annual Sober Ride program, which is offering free coupons for a Lyft home this weekend.

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