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'Most dangerous times of the year for pedestrians and bicyclists' | Officials urge caution on roadways as daylight saving time ends

Traffic enforcement to increase as daylight saving time ends Sunday.

WASHINGTON — The end of Daylight Saving Time has enforcement in the D.C. region on alert as drivers spend more time in the dark with less visibility. 

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) launched its annual Street Smart campaign to remind drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists to watch out for each other.

Through the safety initiative, a COG release said there would be increased enforcement of traffic safety laws that protect people walking and biking in the metro region. 

"The fall and winter are traditionally the most dangerous times of the year for pedestrians and bicyclists and when we see the highest number of fatalities during those times," Josh Saunders, the Director Highway Safety Office for the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles said. "We would remind all drivers that during this time of the year that they need to focus on the task of driving, that they need to slow down, that they need to be aware pedestrians are on the roadways.”

According to the Council of Governments, 94 pedestrians and 5 bicyclists were killed in the metro region in 2020.

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"We all have to share the same road resources, and just because I am behind the wheel of an SUV of some sort does not give me a monopoly on road resources," Kenniss Henry said. 

Henry became an advocate with Street Smart after her 30-year-old daughter Natasha Pettigrew was hit by a car on Route 202 Largo in September 2010.

Henry said her daughter had taken time off law school to come back to Prince George's County to get her feet wet in the political arena. She said she had been training for a half Iron Man when she was hit by a car while on her bicycle. 

Credit: COG
Natasha Pettigrew received her undergraduate degree at The Ohio State University.

“Natasha was every mother’s dream for a child and definitely my dream for a daughter and a best friend and the wind beneath my wings," Henry said. 

Henry said she had two decisions, to allow grief to overtake her or to work to make a difference, she said she chose to make a difference. 

"If I can speak up and touch someone and encourage them to be more mindful of bicyclists and pedestrians on the roadways and just be respectful and remember we all share the same resources; it’s one of the main reasons I continue to do this," Henry said. "If I can save one person from being where I was eleven years ago it is worth it.”

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A spokesperson with AAA said it's not only up to drivers to keep everyone safe on the roads.

"Pedestrians to wear reflective clothing to concentrate on their walking," AAA Public and Government Affairs Manager, Ragina Ali said. "Just like we see incidents of distracted drivers. We also see many times distracted pedestrians that make sure they're not texting or listening to loud music in their earbuds while they're walking so that they can in fact hear traffic and what's going on around them."

The COG shared safety tips for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers. 

If you're driving:

  • Slow down and obey the speed limit
  • Stop for pedestrians at crosswalks
  • When turning, yield to people walking and biking
  • Look for bicyclists before opening your door
  • Allow at least 3 feet when passing bikes
  • Avoid using a cell phone and never text while driving

If you're walking:

  • Cross the street at the corner and use marked crosswalks when available
  • Use the pushbuttons
  • Wait for the walk signal to cross the street
  • Watch for turning vehicles
  • Before crossing, look left, right, and left again
  • Be visible and something light or reflective after dark
  • Watch out for blind spots around trucks or buses
  • Avoid using a cell phone when crossing the street

If you're biking:

  • Obey signs and signals
  • Never ride against traffic
  • Ride in a straight line at least 3 feet from parked cars
  • Use hand signals to tell drivers what you intend to do
  • Wear a helmet
  • Use lights at night and when visibility is poor

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