Md. Officials Considering Review of Pedestrian Safety at Schools

Maryland officials are considering extra precautions to ensure students who walk to school are safe.

State legislators will consider ordering a sweeping review of pedestrian safety at every public school in Maryland, News4 has learned. The request will be made as soon as the Maryland legislature returns to Annapolis this month.

Gwendolyn Ward used to worry about her daughter, Christina Morris-Ward, walking to Seneca Valley High School. The 10th grader regularly crossed a state highway on foot to get to class.

Then, in October 2012, the 15-year-old was fatally struck by a car at the intersection of Germantown Road and Wisteria Drive while walking to school one morning. 

"She was deceased by the time I got there. I kissed her, I touched her," Ward said. "They were like, 'You can't touch her.' I said, 'This is my child. I'm going to touch her and give her my last goodbye kiss.'" 

Ward said students regularly cross the street in the area where her daughter died.

"They don't always cross in the crosswalk, but they pay attention," she said. 

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A police investigation found the driver was not at fault.

But in the years since, Morris-Ward's death has raised concern about the safety of the roads students walk throughout our region.

The Maryland State Legislature will consider new safety measures when it convenes in a few weeks, News4 has learned. Those measures could include requiring the State Highway Administration to review the engineering of the roads and pedestrian crossings at every school in the state.

"In my district, there are very few schools that do have sufficient sidewalks or bike access," said Delegate Eric Luedtke.

Luedtke says he's heard concerns from parents, including near Blake High School in Silver Spring.

"You go to almost any elementary, middle, high school -- public or private --and you'll see what you see behind me: busy roads, no sidewalks, no bike paths, no safe routes," Luedtke said. 

News 4 obtained a 2016 report by internal auditors in Montgomery County which showed "pedestrian and bicycle collisions near schools decreased" following an "engineering" review of signs and markings near some Montgomery County schools months earlier.

Ward supports the state review but says drivers must be diligent too to help prevent a tragedy like hers. 

"We have to pay close attention. You have to pay attention to your surroundings," Ward said.

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