Robert L. Screen was lead facilitator of the 210 Traffic Safety Committee.
If all goes according to plan, on June 1, Indian Head Highway in southern Prince George’s County will have three roving speed cameras activated along a 13-mile expanse of roadway between Charles County and Interstate 495.
This will spark different reactions from the public, depending on what side of the fence one’s outlook is toward speed cameras in general. But for those of us who hold safety, civility and the value of human life dear to our hearts, this will be a day of marked improvement and a move toward a more secure roadway.
As a 41-year resident of the Indian Head Highway (Route 210) community, I’ve witnessed the continued deteriorating driving behavior along this expanse of road. I’ve been extremely blessed to lead a dedicated group of community residents since August 2017 in an ogranization called the 210 Traffic Safety Committee, in response to the glaring traffic safety problems on this highway. Through the efforts of this committee and a host of support from a wide range of groups and individuals, legislative victory secured the forthcoming speed cameras.
Indian Head Highway, according to data collected by the AAA Mid-Atlantic motor vehicle organization, is not just an unsafe roadway in Prince George’s County; it is one of the most unsafe roadways in Maryland — and in the metropolitan region, inclusive of the District and Northern Virginia.
On an 11-mile span of roadway, in slightly more than 11 years, we’ve incurred 66 traffic fatalities, untold numbers of traffic accidents and a continuum of speeding, reckless driving and shoulder-running incidents that reflect a driving mind-set of entitlement and uncaring behavior.
In fall 2017, a speed analysis was performed by the Prince George’s County police. The average speed on the roadway was clocked at 78 mph. The speed limit? Fifty-five miles per hour.
Prince George’s County police responded to our request for more enforcement — and enforce they have. The police gave citations into the thousands. From our monthly meeting report, from January to mid-April, there were more than 7,800 citations given.
From the beginning, our community group has known that police enforcement, speed cameras, traffic fines and education would have only a limited effect. Many see education as the key to solving this dilemma. I disagree. Each and every one of us who has a driver’s license passed a written test and a driving test. We learned then not to speed, not to text, not to get distracted. We know the rules of the road.
This might be a question of our innate character of restraint and integrity: Have we become a people who will do what is right only when law enforcement is watching or governing our behavior? If that is the case, what lessons are we teaching our young and the next generation of drivers?
Perhaps we may need to have a moment of introspection and examine the value system we have in place regarding ourselves and those around us. Perhaps we need to see the value of others in addition to ourselves.
Let us begin to drive with a mind-set for safety for others as well as ourselves. Let us understand that driving is a privilege, not a right. But we all have the right to live.