Police Work to Cut Fatal Accidents in Prince George's County

Debris litters the scene of last year's deadliest accident in Prince George's County, where a drag racer hit spectators on Indian Head Highway, killing eight.
Debris litters the scene of last year's deadliest accident in Prince George's County, where a drag racer hit spectators on Indian Head Highway, killing eight. (2008 Photo By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)
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By Avis Thomas-Lester
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 10, 2009

Twenty-one percent of the people who died on Maryland roadways last year were killed in Prince George's County -- more than anywhere else -- and law enforcement officials said they are teaming up to address traffic safety.

Statistics from the Maryland State Highway Administration show that of 589 traffic fatalities last year, 124 occurred on Prince George's roads.

The Prince George's number is nearly double that of Baltimore County, which was second on the list with 70 deaths. Montgomery County, at 52, Baltimore, at 49, and Anne Arundel County, at 48, rounded out the top five jurisdictions in traffic fatalities.

"Those figures are astounding, and I think we need to look and see what the common denominator is," said Prince George's Public Safety Director Vernon R. Herron. "One fatal crash is too many, but surely 124 is an unacceptable number."

State, county and municipal police officials in Prince George's have banded together to find out why the number is so high and to coordinate efforts to combat the problem, said Lt. Bonnie Morris, commander of the Maryland State Police Forestville barracks.

Morris said roads with multiple fatalities last year included Pennsylvania Avenue, Route 301 and Indian Head Highway, where eight people were fatally injured in February 2008 when a driver who was drag racing plowed into a crowd of people who had just watched another illegal street race.

Prince George's also has reported the highest number of pedestrian deaths in the state in recent years. On April 19, two pedestrians -- Richard Young II, 7, of Mitchellville and LaRenta Vondale McFarland, 19, of Cheverly -- were fatally injured when they were struck by a Jeep shortly after 9 p.m. as they crossed the eastbound lanes of Central Avenue, just east of Campus Way, in Upper Marlboro.

The pedestrians were pushing a shopping cart after leaving the Kettering Plaza shopping center, and the Jeep's driver, Umair Zaheer Akhtar, 19, of Upper Marlboro, told police he did not see them until it was too late. State police officials said last week that the investigation is expected to take two to three months as officers investigate the Jeep's speed, where it hit the pedestrians and other information to be determined through interviews and accident reconstruction.

Last year, 115 pedestrians died on Maryland roads. A breakdown of those numbers by county was not available. In 2007, of 111 pedestrians killed, 28 -- 25 percent -- were killed in Prince George's, compared with 17 each in Baltimore and Baltimore County, 15 in Montgomery and 8 in Anne Arundel.

In addition to the Indian Head Highway fatalities, last year's pedestrian deaths in Prince George's included:

-- Calvin Ford, 17, of Fort Washington, who was struck about 10:30 p.m. March 28 in the 15700 block of Livingston Road in Fort Washington, where he lived. Police are looking for the driver of a metallic gold or silver 1997-99 Cadillac DeVille with damage to the right front headlight assembly, who fled the scene.

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