The most dangerous roads in Montgomery County are located in densely populated areas ranging from Germantown and Damascus down to Silver Spring — and 3% of road miles account for 41% of all serious and fatal crashes in the county, data from the county and state show.
Wade Holland, the county’s Vision Zero coordinator, said that the county tracks hazardous roadways —both maintained by the state and county — via a High Injury Network. That network includes “people seriously injured or killed in a car crash whether they were in the motor vehicle (driver or passenger) or outside the motor vehicle (pedestrian or cyclist),” Holland wrote.
The map covers 2015 through 2019. Broadly speaking, Germantown, Gaithersburg, Rockville, and Wheaton had many of the top 10 worst routes for both state and county-maintained roads.
“With regard to comparing 2022 locations to prior years’ hot spots, the total number of crashes are still down from pre-COVID levels, but where crash hotspots are [remain] largely unchanged,” Holland wrote.
The county has identified the following 20 road stretches as some of the most dangerous. The data below is from 2015 to 2019. Holland and county officials are working on Vision Zero efforts to reduce and eventually eliminate serious and fatal crashes among pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists by 2030.
There has been an increase in pedestrian-involved crashes since the beginning of the pandemic, according to county and state data. After seeing 484 crashes in 2018 and 371 crashes in 2020, preliminary counts show there were 432 crashes in 2022.
Fatal crashes involving pedestrians have remained steady — 15 in 2018, 17 in 2020 and 14 in 2022. Holland noted that pedestrians in this data include people using wheelchairs, skateboards, scooters or similar modes of transportation.
The data in 2022 is preliminary because county officials are still receiving reports about crashes and need to perform an audit to check the data, Holland wrote.
For cyclists, crashes peaked at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic before dropping by more than 30 crashes by 2022. Four cyclists were killed in 2022, up from zero in 2021 and the highest from 2018 to 2022.
According to the county’s Vision Zero 2030 Action Plan, officials are proposing many methods to make county roadways, like the ones identified above, safer. That includes strategies like constructing and improving sidewalks and improving lighting at intersections, to more substantial work like redesigning intersections, changing traffic signal timing and phasing, and adding more protected crossings through new traffic signals and beacons.
Eli Glazier, a planner within Montgomery Planning who helped draft the county’s Pedestrian Master Plan, said in an interview earlier this month that state highways tend to be most dangerous roadways for pedestrians specifically.
County officials have been talking with state officials about a long-term goal of having the county gain more control over state roads, in order to achieve goals related to Vision Zero, Glazier said.
“We have to overcome the transportation decisions that we have made in the past that have been really detrimental to the goals that we have today,” Glazier said.
Part of that is through the Complete Streets design guide, which looks at roadways countywide and assesses how they should be reconfigured to accommodate all users, Glazier said. Local officials also need to take a hard look at what infrastructure needs to be built to make streets safer, he added.
“The process and public investment in fixing all of the things that need to be done on all of these state and county roads … is going to be a generational effort,” Glazier said. “Moving curbs is expensive, moving utilities is expensive. The political will to do the things that need to be done, it takes a lot.”