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Traffic fatalities down in 2011, authorities say

Thursday - 3/29/2012, 6:12am  ET

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Graph depicting traffic fatalities in the Washington D.C. region from 1998 to 2011. (Courtesy Stratacomm LLC)

WASHINGTON - There is some good news regarding highway crashes in our region: The number of people killed on the roadways is down across all categories -- drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists.

According to 2011 figures the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, 184 motorists, 5 cyclists and 68 pedestrians died as a result of collisions last year. In 2010, 197 motorists, 9 cyclists and 77 pedestrians were killed.

While the downtrend is positive, authorities are working to make the roads even safer. On Wednesday, an effort called The Street Smart Campaign kicked off its ninth year with the goal of educating the public about road safety.

Prince George's County Police Chief Mark McGaw says everyone plays a part in reducing the number of fatalities.

"Whether behind the steering wheel, on foot or riding a bicycle, we all need to take responsibility for our own safety."

Officials from Virginia, D.C. and Maryland say engineering helps, too. In the District of Columbia, the Department of Transportation added traffic calming devices, such as crossing islands for pedestrians, that have helped slow traffic. In Montgomery County, bump outs that narrow traffic lanes, forcing cars to slow, are also cited as helping to reduce speeds.

While the statistics from COG reflect good news, state officials like Byran Young, with the Maryland State Highway Administration, say there's more work to be done.

"In fact, when I say that each year 100 people die walking, people think I'm citing a national statistic."

Sadly, Young says, that's not the case. He says in Maryland alone, "More than 3,000 crashes involving pedestrians occur each year. As a result, more than 2,500 people are injured, and 100 are killed."

The Street Smart campaign is sponsored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board. The campaign is in its 9th year.

WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow Kate Ryan and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)