EASTON — Last year, 511 people lost their lives in vehicle crashes across Maryland, according to data released April 17 at the annual Maryland Highway Safety Summit, a news release states.

The figures reflect an 8.5 percent reduction in the number of crash fatalities compared to 2017, when 558 people were killed. The 2018 figures were also lower than the 2016 number of 522 traffic deaths.

“While this decrease in fatalities is a step in the right direction, 511 people were taken from their families, friends and communities,” Maryland Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Jim Ports said in a news release. “Every death on our roadways is preventable. Safety partners from across the state are here today to look at trends and outline the next steps to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, the loss of life on our roads.”

The Maryland Highway Safety Summit is an annual meeting of stakeholders, policy makers, advocates and agency leaders. Among state transportation officials in attendance were State Highway Administration Administrator Greg Slater, Maryland Transit Administration Administrator Kevin Quinn and Maryland Highway Safety Office Director Tim Kerns.

Also in attendance were Motor Vehicle Administrator Chrissy Nizer and Maryland Transportation Authority Police Chief Col. Jerry Jones, the release states.

The group comes together to develop steps and actions for Maryland’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan, a five-year program with the goal of cutting the number of traffic fatalities and serious injuries in half by 2030.

The plan provides a framework to address major areas of traffic safety: aggressive, impaired and distracted driving, highway infrastructure, seat belt use and pedestrian and bicyclist safety. The four E’s — education, engineering, enforcement and emergency medical services — are the foundation of these lifesaving efforts, the release states.

“It is important that we look beyond the numbers; these are lives lost and countless injuries and years of trauma because of dangerous and selfish decisions,” Nizer said. “Your best defense in a crash? Always wear your seat belt, never drive impaired, slow down and avoid distractions. Being a safe and responsible traveler is an action each person can take every time they get in a vehicle.”

Each year, the same behaviors are the primary causes of injuries and fatalities on Maryland roads: failing to wear a seat belt, impaired driving, speeding and distraction, the release states. Pedestrians and bicyclists are most vulnerable when using Maryland roads. In 2018, 133 pedestrians and six bicyclists were killed, compared to 117 pedestrians and 11 bicyclists in 2017.

Quinn and Slater stressed the need for pedestrians to be responsible and vigilant on Maryland’s highways and rail facilities.

“As police, one of the most difficult things to do is to look into someone’s eyes and tell them that their loved one was just killed in a crash,” Jones said. “We write tickets hoping to keep you from getting that knock on your door.”

Jennifer Weaver of Calvert County talked at a news conference about how her actions as a distracted driver took a man’s life when she rear-ended his stopped vehicle, sending it into oncoming traffic. Weaver had been looking at her cell phone.

Maryland Department of Transportation and its partners remind motorists that a few simple steps can save lives:

• Buckle up — Seat belts prevent injuries and stop you from being ejected from your vehicle.

• Slow down — Adapt your behavior to arrive alive.

• Avoid distractions — Park the phone before you drive.

• Drive sober — Be legendary and always have a safe and sober ride home.

• Use crosswalks — And when driving, look up/look out for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists.

Learn more about the Maryland’s Toward Zero Deaths campaign at towardzerodeathsmd.com, on Facebook @towardzero deathsmd, on Twitter @tzd_mary land and on Instagram @twdzero deaths_md.

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