A fatal collision in which a vehicle struck two pedestrians Tuesday morning has led to renewed calls for enhanced pedestrian safety measures by county leaders and transit safety organizations.
The Montgomery County Department of Police identified the pedestrians Wednesday as Gaithersburg residents Ana Ortiz, 70, and Miguel Antonio Ortiz, 65.
The collision occurred as the couple was crossing School Drive in Gaithersburg, while on their way to Fields Road Elementary School, according to county police.
County Council Member Evan Glass tweeted yesterday that the couple was on their way to cast their ballots in Tuesday’s general election.
The vehicle that struck them was a 2007 Toyota Prius, traveling west, police said in a news release. According to the release, the driver remained on scene.
Montgomery County police Officer Casandra Tressler said the driver is not in custody and there are no charges have been filed. Police said they are investigating whether alcohol impairment might have been a factor.
Tressler said so far this year there have been three additional collisions reported near the intersection of Muddy Branch School Road: one personal-injury collision and two property-damage collisions.
Miriam Schoenbaum, a board member of the Action Committee for Transit, said her organization has been pushing for increased road safety, especially around schools for years.
“There’s a horrifying number of [Montgomery County Public Schools] students getting hit by drivers on their way to school,” Schoenbaum said. “Schools are also community hubs. And so, it might not be an MCPS student getting hit, but it’s somebody getting in an area of a school and the emphasis of the Safe Routes to School program really should be on making the route to school safe.”
According to the Maryland Department of Transportation, Safe Routes to School is a program that involves “federally-funded, sustained efforts by community members and governments to enable and encourage children to safely walk, roll, or bicycle to school.”
Schoenbaum said the collision was a result of “how we design and operate transportation in Montgomery County.”
With the end of daylight savings time and shorter days, the fall months can “heighten the danger” of collisions, she said, adding that the threat of collisions and potential fatalities is “not just a night problem.”
To reduce the number of deaths and injuries in the county, roads need to be redesigned roads so that people can get to places more easily, not just in cars but also through walking, biking and transit as well, Schoenbaum said.