King County Metro Transit launches ‘Safety Season’

School is back in session and fall is near, and King County Metro Transit today launched the pedestrian Safety Season – a focused effort to reduce the number of pedestrian traffic injuries that happen in our communities.

“Our transit operators are always on the lookout for pedestrians, especially as darker, rainy days set in – but people can do their part too by being safe, being seen, and being smart,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. 
At an event today, Constantine was joined by Darrin Grondel, executive director of the state Traffic Safety Commission, Metro bus operator Theresa Tobin and Metro Transit’s Safety Superintendent Darryl Russell to launch Metro’s new safety campaign at Westlake Park, highlighting efforts underway and on the horizon.

“We really appreciate the hard work done by Metro’s safety unit, who are really making a difference and saving lives,” Grondel said.

A look at the most recent preliminary data, 2012 was a terrible year in Washington for pedestrians, Grondel said. Statewide pedestrian deaths increased from 66 in 2011 to 73 in 2012, Grondel said. In King County, pedestrian deaths increased from 12 to 21. This was when deaths in most categories decreased. Through Aug. 19, there have been 22 pedestrians deaths reported statewide this year, eight of which were in King County.

Statewide, there are hundreds of pedestrian injury collisions each year. In King County, based on preliminary information still being collected and tallied, at least 220 pedestrian injuries from 210 collisions were reported in the first three months of this year, according to the state Traffic Safety Commission. Metro has experienced no pedestrian fatalities this year, though 19 pedestrian injury collisions were reported during the first half of this year, 16 of which were found to be not-preventable.

Metro safely carries about 400,000 riders each weekday throughout King County. The agency hopes to reverse any trends “and prevent every pedestrian collision we can,” Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond said. “We continue to see a concerning pattern we must work to address.

Continued training for operators – including renewed emphasis on pedestrian safety – is a key focus. New technology also could play a role. Metro is testing special outward facing cameras on two buses later this year. A dashboard monitor activated with a left-turn signal could help drivers better see pedestrians – and a thermal feature will better show whether a pedestrian is crossing in front of a bus on a dark and rainy night.

Metro’s efforts are the latest in state and nationwide efforts to address the many dangers pedestrians face in our communities, Grondel said.

Pedestrians can do several things to help keep themselves safe, said bus operator Theresa Tobin, a member of Metro’s safety and security team who recently earned her 15-year safe driving award. She’s seen bad pedestrian habits that can turn deadly.

“I’m always on the lookout for you, but please, look up from your phone and be aware of traffic when crossing the street,” Tobin said. “And please, if you are wearing dark clothes on a rainy morning – work to see and be seen. When waiting for the bus, please take a step back. We want everyone to be safely away from the edge of traffic.”

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