By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO, [email protected]
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks has announced bold plans to eliminate automobile deaths by 2040.
Joined by Police Chief Hank Stawinski, Alsobrooks announced the County’s plan to adopt “Vision Zero”, which is a strategy already being used in D.C. and Montgomery County, at the Takoma-Langley Crossroads Transit Center.
Vision Zero is described as a multi-national road traffic safety project that aims to achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries involving road traffic. According to the Vision Zero website, the plan has been a success in Europe and is now gaining momentum in major American cities.
Alsobrooks has made road safety a priority since her inauguration in January. She said that a rash of auto related deaths earlier this year led to the implementation of the new plan which approaches driver safety as a public health issue.
Prince George’s County averages 42 crashes per day and over 15,000 per year, according to data from the Maryland Highway Safety Office and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Last year, there were 99 fatal accidents throughout the County. The tragic accidents included a crash that killed three children the December 30.
As she spoke, there were 99 pairs of shoes surrounding the podium in memory of the people who lost their lives in 2018. However, it was an accident in Bowie earlier this year that made had the greatest impact on the County Executive and intensified her resolve towards this issue. In early February five other children were killed in a crash in Bowie and Alsobrooks said she personally attended their funerals.
“We had 99 deaths last year, it would be our goal to have at least nine fewer deaths this year, until we get to zero,” Alsobrooks said. “I walked by each of those five caskets. I have never seen anything like that in my life, and hope never to see it again.”
“They represent to us and to their families the birthday candles that have not been blown out, the graduation diplomas that will never be received, the first bike rides without training wheels,” she added.
Vision Zero is expected to be instituted by combining the use of public education, infrastructure changes, and tighter police enforcement of current road laws. Stawinski added that his Operation Shortstop policy will allow police to use “concerted enforcement of the speed laws” around schools in the County to prevent student-related traffic deaths also.
Prince George’s County Council Chair Todd Turner said the Council and the County Executive’s office have increased funding for the Department of Public Works and Transportation in their fiscal year budgets for the past several years. Turner said additional resources will be provided through collaboration with state highway police who patrol state roads such as Pennsylvania Avenue and Route One which are two of the County’s most dangerous thoroughfares.
However, the plans for full implementation of Vision Zero haven’t been formalized. In College Park, lower speed limits, flashing lights and a fence in the median are all designed to reduce the number of people getting struck by cars crossing the busy road and examples of how Vision Zero may work is some communities.