(March 15, 2013) If the State Highway Administration’s public safety campaign goes according to plan, Ocean City may soon have a new graphic meme – a stick man, in the customary “walking” pose associated with traffic signs, holding a surfboard.
But for all practical purposes, he should probably be carrying a beer.
The SHA sought the city’s approval this week for a publicity campaign that will feature a new “walk smart – use crosswalks” logo design, to be placed on bumper stickers, garbage cans, and T-shirts, which city staff will wear for “Casual Friday.”
“Public Works people that are outside all the time would be the most visible,” said Karen Waggoner of the SHA’s Office of Traffic and Safety during this week’s City Council session. “Fridays are the best day to have [this message] out there, because that’s when people are coming into town. Most of our pedestrian crashes happen on the weekend, because it’s a whole new group of people.”
For the past several months, Waggoner and other state highway and traffic officials have been working with the city’s Pedestrian Safety Committee, re-formed last year over concern about the high number of pedestrian crashes the resort had seen over the 2012 summer. There were 34 in that season, as compared to 12 over the same span of weeks in 2011, according to the OCPD. Two of these were fatal, while no fatal accidents occurred in 2011.
Waggoner praised the responsiveness of the committee, made up of city officials and business owners, while working with the state.
“I have to say that it is by far the best committee I’ve ever worked with,” she said.
The SHA is already planning a number of engineering and enforcement initiatives, some of which – such as changing traffic light and pedestrian signal timing at several busy intersections – will be implemented for this season. Further improvements, such as the installation of a crossing signal at 54th Street, are planned for next year. The state is also conducting a study of vehicle speed on Coastal Highway to judge the possibility of lowering the speed limit.
On the education front, Waggoner said the state has “a lot more things” planned than just the T-shirts. Ad space will be bought on banner planes and the backs of city buses for safety messages. The SHA will also be producing bumper stickers with a logo similar to the T-shirt design, and asked that the city allow the stickers to be placed on public trash receptacles.
Public Works Director Hal Adkins cautioned, however, that “stickers are akin to graffiti.”
“The existence of those stickers promotes more stickers,” Adkins said. “I ‘d ask that you limit that exposure to the trash barrels on the beach.”
As has often been noted, however, spreading the word about how to safely cross Coastal Highway is one thing – actually getting people to do it late at night, and when they’re less than sober, is another. As Councilman Brent Ashley noted, 60 percent of pedestrian accidents in the resort involved alcohol, and drunk driving arrests by the Ocean City Police Department spiked 66.7 percent last year.
“Perhaps the slogan should be ‘walk smart, live smart – don’t drink,’” Ashley suggested.
“The bars are a huge focus for us, because a lot of the crashes occur at closing time,” Waggoner said. “We are keenly aware that alcohol is a big part of the pedestrian problem.”
The zone that the SHA has studied as an area of particularly high pedestrian risk – the stretch of Coastal Highway between the convention center and the Route 90 bridge – contains much of the resort’s nightlife.
It is in this area that the SHA is looking into the installation of a median barrier, such as a fence or vegetation, that would force pedestrians to cross at the appropriate signals. This option is still being studied and is likely several years off.
In the meantime, however, Waggoner said the state is planning to print coasters with the safety slogan and distribute them to bars.
“The bar owners have agreed to have their staff remind customers as they leave [about traffic safety],” Waggoner said. “We’ll likely have some kind of button or shirt for them as well.”
The State is ramping up safety concerns and solutions on Coastal Hwy. Since last year I have heard all the ideas to rectify this problem. I think its great, I don’t like or want anyone to get hurt and even worse killed. One thing that really upsets me is NO One has come up with what will be done to the people caught violating the law regarding crossing Coastal Hwy. During the summer I’m constantly up and down Coastal from the inlet to Fenwick. After the second death last year, the next day I counted 73 people from teens to yes the older wiser groups crossing, running in front of traffic. This was at 10:30 am. Eight people just missed by a vehicle. Yes, I mean just missed. Most of the time its pedestrian error not driver error. This was not a unique day. This is normal occurences. I know I and many I know are as cautious and slow because the of people that just don’t care this is a major roadway. They must feel its all about them. Selfish maybe? Again I don’t want anyone hurt or killed. If taxpayers have to pony up money because of lack of comon sense, then I feel the violators should pay a hefty fine. Maybe this may help with being courteous to others and obtaining some comon sense. Yes, drivers need to slow up and be courteous as well. Since we have to come up with solutions to keep these volators safe, they should pay their fair share. Not be given a pass just because they are tourist.