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Prince George’s Councilwoman Readies Initiative to Change Driving Habits

WASHINGTON INFORMER — A Prince George’s County council member will announce Friday a new motorist safety initiative in the wake of several fatal crashes along one of the state’s most dangerous roads.

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The intersection of Route 210 and Old Fort Road near the Potomac Village shopping center in Fort Washington, Maryland (Photo by: William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

By William J. Ford

A Prince George’s County council member will announce Friday a new motorist safety initiative in the wake of several fatal crashes along one of the state’s most dangerous roads.

Councilwoman Monique Anderson-Walker (D-District 8) of Fort Washington will make the announcement at Oxon Hill High School for “#DrivingItHome,” which aims to dramatically decrease the number of accidents and traffic violations, particularly along Route 210 — also known as Indian Head Highway —in southern Prince George’s.

Since July, several fatal crashes occurred along the 20-mile stretch of highway, and police have issued more than 10,000 citations and traffic stops and investigated nearly 1,200 traffic accidents in the past three years, including 70 traffic-related arrests last year.

The goal for the councilwoman’s initiative will be to change drivers’ habits based on six principles: seatbelt use, texting while driving, driver distractions, drunk driving, highway speed, and aggressive driving.

“We just want to make sure that we bring up this younger group in a culture of understanding that driving is an awesome responsibility,” Anderson-Walker said. “When you get behind the wheel, you are not just impacting your life, but others in your car and people on the street around you.”

Presenting the #DrivingItHome campaign also seeks to encourage young people on driver safety and constantly repeat good habits on the road.

According to AAA, speeding accounts for 13 percent of crashes and 33 percent of all fatalities nationwide.

To avoid a suspension of a driver’s license, fines and injuries, the nonprofit organization composed of motor clubs suggests parents and guardians construct a “driving agreement” that can be viewed at https://bit.ly/2unBOxi. The recommendations include:

• checkpoints on when a teen drove at night, with peers, weather and road types.
• check in with a parent every time behind the wheel.
• obey all traffic signs and laws.
• don’t take unnecessary risks while driving tired, angry, or inclement weather.

“This driving campaign isn’t just about 210. This is about driving in general,” Anderson-Walker said. “We want people to have the right mindset when getting behind the wheel.”

Although the county police patrol the highway, Route 210 is a state road and approvals for speed cameras and other infrastructure must go before the Maryland General Assembly and other state agencies.

The House of Delegates passed legislation Monday for the county to install no more than three cameras, formerly called speed monitoring systems, along the highway.

Before they are installed, the county must publish a notice on its website and newspaper of general circulation and indicate its use within a school zone. Businesses, trees and some residences are near the highway.

The bill also requests the State Highway Administration and county’s Department of Public Works and Transportation to examine Route 210 on solutions to combat motor vehicle crashes, injuries and fatalities. A report should be provided to the governor and General Assembly by May 31, 2021.

A hearing on the bill will take place March 28 before the Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Del. Kris Valderrama (D-District 26) of Fort Washington sponsored legislation last year to install a camera that faces southbound at Route 210 and Old Fort Road near the Livingston Square shopping center in Fort Washington.

“There was enough support to show this is a very serious issue and no one was going to back down,” she said. “We put in the work, but we’re done, yet.”

This article originally appeared in the Washington Informer

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