Blair's pedestrian problems signal bigger trend

Nov. 26, 2003, midnight | By Kedamai Fisseha | 20 years, 6 months ago

Pedestrian accidents pose significant concerns

In addition to the two pedestrian accidents at Blair this year, the total number of pedestrian accidents has risen in Montgomery County. A safety campaign was initiated to battle the problem, according to officials.

Surpassing the homicide rate at times, the number of pedestrian fatalities in Montgomery County has been constantly rising. From 1997 to 2002, the county saw an increase of about seven pedestrian fatalities while the total number of accidents increased by more than 30, according to the County Government website.

For students in MCPS, the problem is also becoming increasingly pronounced. Blair's PTSA President Elect, Betsy Scroggs, described the severity of the issue and expressed her desire to affect change. "The PTSA is definitely concerned with the problem at Blair and we are currently discussing some of the problems that we can address. Many parents bring up the issue at meetings," she said.

Throughout October, which was Pedestrian Safety Month, MCPS, the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) and the County Government highlighted their efforts to promote pedestrian safety. In a letter to parents and guardians, Superintendent Jerry D. Weast claimed that the county is taking steps to improve conditions around the county. "A Pedestrian Safety ToolKit was provided to each school to assist principals in identifying programs or activities to promote this message during…October," wrote Weast.

Blair's toolkit is currently with business manager Anne Alban. The toolkit consists of a stack of brochures and other informational papers, none of which are enough for distribution to the entire school. "We didn't feel that this would be terribly useful to us. I think they aimed it [the toolkit] more toward elementary schools," said Alban.

Principal Phillip Gainous recognized these toolkits as a step forward, but adamantly described his belief that the problem must be addressed outside of school. "The students have to accept the responsibility and parents have to reinforce this [responsibility]. Parental reinforcement is very important," he said.

The County Government also reported taking measures to promote pedestrian safety, citing the creation of a Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee in 2002 to oversee improvement efforts in Montgomery County. Lori Gillen works in this committee as the Safety Coordinator. "The county executive sees pedestrian safety as a vital issue and our committee is dedicated to making the streets not only safe, but inviting," Gillen said.

Gillen reported that county's efforts to promote pedestrian safety at Blair have faced obstacles beyond her committee's limitations. "Blair is situated on state roads so [initiating change] is difficult. The state really needs to step up," she said.

Gainous also corroborated the limitations that the county faces at Blair. "The political reality is that Route 29 is a major throughfare and they want to move people through as quickly as possible," he said.

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Kedamai Fisseha. Kedamai Fisseha sorely misses the computer lab where Silver Chips was born and is daily reborn. He is currently living and writing from London, England where he is glad for the chance to continue his participation in the organization. More »

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