Police pushing for pedestrian safety

(Gerald Martineau For The Washington Post)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 9, 2010; 7:56 PM

Police in Arlington issued 33 tickets and 50 warnings to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists at the county's highest-volume intersection, North Lynn Street and Wilson Boulevard, on Tuesday morning - and more will be coming.

As part of the annual Street Smart campaign, police throughout the Washington region are stepping up enforcement in an attempt to reduce pedestrian and cyclist fatalities on roads.

Last year, there were 79 pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in the D.C. metropolitan area, accounting for 27 percent of all traffic-related fatalities, officials said.

"I think the bottom-line message is to pay attention. That goes for everybody," Arlington County Police Chief Douglas Scott said as law enforcement officials from around the area gathered in Rosslyn to kick off the effort.

Scott said Arlington will station additional officers at high-volume locations over the next few weeks.

This summer, the District increased fines and penalties for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks to $250 and 3 points against their license. If a driver hits a pedestrian, the penalty jumps to $500 and 6 points, said D.C. police Cmdr. Hilton Burton. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles Web site, 10 points lead to a license suspension.

Officials reminded pedestrians and cyclists to wear reflective clothing at night so they are visible to drivers, to always use crosswalks and to obey signals. Drivers were warned to yield to pedestrians and cyclists and to slow down.

"Speed matters highly," said Mary Hynes, an Arlington County Board member.

A pedestrian struck by a car going 25 mph has a 5 percent chance of dying. The fatality rate increases to 40 percent if the vehicle is traveling at 30 mph, she said.

"This is your warning. We are out there and we are writing tickets," said Thomas Didone, captain of the Montgomery County Police Department.

Street Smart, now in its eighth year, is sponsored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

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