BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- More than 550 people died on Maryland roadways last year, state officials said Monday, and the leading causes have remained consistent: speeding, impaired driving, distracted driving and failure to wear a seatbelt.
"It does surprise me because of the fatalities, but then you have to think about those who are not looking out for other people," Michael Jenkins of Baltimore said.
Of those killed, 337 were drivers, 80 were passengers, 129 were pedestrians and six were bicyclists, according to preliminary figures. Five deaths are still under investigation, said Maryland Transportation Secretary James F. Ports Jr.
"We can't forget – these are not just numbers, these are not just statistics, these are people," he said. "They're our families, our friends, our community members and 557 people who no longer will come to work or go home each and every day."
The Maryland Department of Transportation and State Police gathered Monday to plead with drivers to be safe.
"If each and every one of us think about the 557 people we lost year on our roadways, I think it'll make a difference," said MDOT Motor Vehicle Administration Administrator Chrissy Nizer.
According to data from the Maryland Highway Safety Office's Zero Deaths Maryland initiative, 112 of fatal crashes in 2021 involved drivers impaired by drugs, alcohol or both.
"There's no reason to get behind a wheel after drinking," said Ports. "There's absolutely no reason to ride with someone who has been drinking."
Nizer, the Hogan administration's Highway Safety Representative, said an overwhelming majority of Marylanders -- 93% -- think unsafe driving is a major problem.
"It was very clear with a large percentage of Maryland residents responding back that they had significant concerns and highway safety is something that is forefront in their mind," she said.
But many respondents admitted to unsafe driving practices, including 41% of respondents who said they drove 15 mph or more over the posted speed limit on the highway and 75% of respondents who said they went 10 mph or faster than the posted speed limit on a residential street.
Faster speeds can increase the risk of death or serious injury for cyclists and pedestrians, said Nizer, noting they are eight times more likely to die if they are hit by a car going 40 mph than one traveling 20 mph.
"We know that the messages are out there in terms of safe driving behaviors," she said. "We see the same causes of crashes from year-to-year but we need to continue to do more to reach the Maryland public."
Maryland State Police Superintendent Col. Woodrow W. Jones III said the agency has received funding from the state to increase patrols in April, which is Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
To date, there have been 134 reported fatalities on Maryland roadways in 2022, according to Zero Deaths Maryland.
Drivers WJZ spoke with said they want to do their part.
"It just depends on the person and how they want to drive," Jenkins said. "Each person that has a car that is driving they shouldn't be driving at a high rate of speed."
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