Prince George’s County is taking steps to improve driver safety and reduce the number of traffic deaths that occur in the county.
Officials announced Thursday that Prince George’s County Police have joined 30 states in a “Toward Zero Deaths” campaign, which began on Aug. 1, a month that officials say is one of the worst for traffic fatalities.
“Toward Zero Deaths” is a national campaign that uses data to improve highway safety and reduce fatalities
John Kuo, the administrator for the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, said he hopes to “change the way Maryland thinks about highway safety.”
The goal is to reduce deaths by motor vehicle crashes by half over the next 20 years, said Kuo, who also serves as the highway safety representative for the governor’s office.
There were 486 people killed on the road in Maryland last year, more than the amount of violent crime fatalities, according to William McMahon, president of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association and police chief for Howard County.
This number may shock people in another setting, he said, but when it comes to motor vehicle fatalities, it seems acceptable.
“They’re preventable,” McMahon said, calling the death rate unacceptable.
In January, Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark Magaw created the county’s first full-time centralized traffic enforcement squad, led by Major Pete Eliadis, of the special operations division.
According to Eliadis, since the squad’s creation, motor vehicle accidents are down 19 percent.
“The county hasn’t focused many efforts on this in the past,” Eliadis said, adding that there are now more targeted educational efforts, using various methods including social media.
Magaw cited a few of the county’s recent efforts, including “operation roadrunner,” which targets speeding motorcycles; “smooth operator,” created to reduce aggressive driving; “click it or ticket” and “take 30 for traffic,” a program created in May that says officers will take 30 minutes per shift for traffic enforcement in targeted areas.
He said the “take 30 for traffic” program has seen results, increasing traffic stops in the county by more than 488 percent.
“Traffic enforcement can and does make a difference,” Magaw said.
According to Kuo, 62 percent of motor vehicle fatalities last year involved a driver who was speeding, not wearing a seatbelt or impaired by drugs or alcohol – or a combination of all three.
“Eighty lives per year are saved if people use seatbelts,” Kuo said.
McMahon emphasized that motor vehicle deaths affect families, as well as entire communities, and even one traffic fatality is too many.