WASHINGTON, D. C. (Friday, January 17, 2020) –– Traffic fatalities dropped to the lowest level in years on Indian Head Highway (Maryland Route 210) in 2019. Three persons lost their lives on the corridor during 2019, including a pedestrian on a service road parallel to MD 210. Increased enforcement and other factors at play may have saved lives otherwise lost.
Although the number of traffic fatalities tends to fluctuate over a period of time, it is a remarkable sea-change on Indian Head Highway. Nearly 70 persons have lost their lives on MD 210 over the course of the past dozen years. The death toll and the carnage along MD 210 mobilized area residents and community and civic groups. They sounded the alarm for aggressive enforcement on a heavily traveled highway with a history of violent and deadly crashes. They also called for strategic infrastructure improvements and long-term upgrades that engender safer passage for all users on the high-risk roadway. Residents also issued the clarion call for speed cameras along the high-speed highway.
During 2019, more than 30,000 drivers and scofflaws were slapped with citations for various traffic infractions along Indian Head Highway. Prince George’s County Police Department officers on patrol pulled over nearly 11,000 errant drivers on the roadway in 2019 for sundry violations, including impaired driving, aggressive driving, distracted driving and speeding. In addition, nearly 8,000 drivers were ticketed by a triad of speed cameras along the MD 210 Corridor inside Prince George’s County in 2019.
“Fostering a traffic safety culture along Indian Head Highway has proven to be a tedious and tenacious work in progress. The transformation to a safer Maryland Route 210 is moving in a favorable direction,” noted Rev. Dr. Robert L. Screen, 210 Traffic Safety Committee. “This is a work borne of the long-haul. It entails a sustained cooperative and coordinated effort among stakeholders, agencies, and the community. It requires pushing hard against deeply rooted degrees of selfishness that apparently compel some drivers to repeatedly flout traffic laws and endanger the lives of others. Such laws are designed for the common good, civility and public safety.”
Meeting monthly at the grassroots level, neighbors in local residential communities lining the highway and advocacy groups are working in tandem with the Prince George’s County Police Department, traffic engineers with the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA), state and local elected officials and other decision makers and stakeholders, to change the traffic safety culture along MD 210, and to facilitate infrastructure improvements at intersections, interchanges and service roads on the state-owned roadway inside Prince George’s County.
“While it is encouraging that traffic fatalities declined on MD 210 from 2018 to 2019, there are still way too many bad actors on the roadway,” said Ron Weiss, Indian Head Highway Area Action Council. “The question is how will we get them to change their mindsets and become responsible drivers? It is a tough, long-term problem, but solving it will save lives.”
To improve road safety, the county police also regularly conducted ongoing DUI patrols and checkpoints, an effort heightened after the deaths of three siblings on Indian Head Highway in late 2018.
“It is axiomatic: most improvements in traffic safety are episodic and incremental, and in far too many cases, tragically temporal and fleeting. Time will tell. We cannot afford to rest. We must continue to move the needle downward. The old bromide is still true, ‘one traffic death is too many, and one traffic crash is still one too many,’” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “The safety improvements along Indian Head Highway is proof positive that the community members and residents found the status quo unacceptable. Together, they emerged as untiring advocates for safer roadways and safer communities.”
In terms of the 2019 death toll on MD 210, the Prince George’s County Police Department’s Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Unit reports:
A passenger in a vehicle stopped at a red light was killed, and three other persons were injured during a multiple-vehicle crash on Indian Head Highway at Berry Road in Accokeek on President’s Day. The fatal crash claiming the life of 59-year-old Juan Menendez Castillo occurred Monday night, February 18, 2019.
On June 23, 2019 a pedestrian was hit and killed by a car on a service road of Route 210 (Indian Head Highway) and East Swan Creek Road. The decedent was identified as 43-year-old Lawrence Sedgwick of Constellation Court in Fort Washington. The service road runs parallel to the 11000 block of MD-210.
Jose Miguel, age 34, of Rockville was killed after he was struck by a passing vehicle while he and another person were attempting to repair his broken-down truck on the shoulder of the I-295 southbound exit ramp on southbound Indian Head Highway. The incident occurred September 21, 2019.
In comparison, five fatalities occurred in 2018 on MD 210. The tragic roll call of victims on “the cruelest road” includes three young siblings, 5-year-old twins, Alexander Mejia and Rosalie Mejia, and their 13-month-old brother, Isaac Mejia. They were killed upon impact in a violent rear-end collision on Indian Head Highway on December 30, 2018. Their parents sustained severe injuries in the crash triggered by a suspected drunken driver. At least eight persons lost their lives on MD 210 in 2017. All told, as least 66 traffic fatalities occurred on MD 210 from 2007 to 2018. What is more, hundreds of crashes resulting in severe injuries have also occurred along the roadway in the southern region of the county during the period.
Indian Head Highway is the scene of almost one traffic crash per day, including 354 crashes in 2018. Patrol units with the Prince George’s County Police Department District VII, commanded by Major Jeffrey D. Mitchell, and other patrols, issued more than 30,000 citations on MD 210 during 2019. Police officers made 10,649 traffic stops on the roadway last year. The automated traffic enforcement units issued 7,877 tickets to motorists caught on camera while exceeding the posted speed limit by 12 miles per hour or greater inside the 13-mile corridor. “We have continued aggressive enforcement along Indian Head Headway,” states the Prince George’s County Police Department. “We need the public’s partnership in these efforts to keep our roadways safe. We are urging drivers to obey all driving laws and to keep your eyes on the road at all times.”
Long-awaited infrastructure improvements on Indian Head Highway are in the works. Such projects will also improve traffic operations and enhance highway safety, area residents say. They laud the Maryland SHA and county planning agencies for shifting into high gear to help improve road safety, lighting, marking, for upgrading pedestrian signals and regulatory signage along the MD 210 corridor, and for making progress in constructing a new interchange at the intersection of MD 210 and Kirby Hill Road/Livingston Road. With synergy, community members and stakeholders are more determined than ever to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries to zero along the corridor they call their “Main Street.” To that end, MD 210 community forums are now held like clockwork each third Monday night of the month at the PGCPD District VII Police Station.
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