Ocean City in Worcester County has approximately 10,000 year-round residents. However, during the warmer months, there are several million people who visit the city. During these tourist periods, the city has earned a reputation for having traffic accidents and often these involve pedestrians and bicyclists. The number of pedestrian accidents has risen each year since 2016, many of them having fatal outcomes. The local authorities have been implementing a host of changes including pedestrian walkways and signals, as well as reducing speed limits. One particularly dangerous area is along the eight-lane Coastal Highway.
Coastal Highway Fencing Project
This year Maryland's State Highway Administration implemented several key safety improvements along the Coastal Highway some of which include the following:
- Installation of a median fence that was completed prior to the busy Memorial Day weekend
- Repaving the highway primarily from a stretch between 26th Street and 62nd Street
- A significant improvement to lighting in the area with 40-foot light poles stretching from Convention Center Drive to Route 90
- They have added landscaping to improve the look (aesthetics) of the fenced area in the median
- Pedestrians now will have to cross the highway at one of the marked crosswalk areas
New State Grant
In addition to the significant physical safety improvements in the town, newly awarded grant funds will be available to make progress in other ways--such as enforcement. The Ocean City Police Department has approximately 100 full-time officers and typically adds another 100 officers during their busy travel season. The organization was recently awarded a $30,000 grant through the state to further boost safety along the Coastal Highway. These funds will largely be used to increase traffic enforcement in the area. They will be specifically taking measures to reduce pedestrian and bicycle accidents.
Law Enforcement Outlook
Lindsay Richard, who manages public affairs for the organization, explains that they are grateful for the recent funding. She says that it is critical for visitors to the town to remember the potential dangers of crossing the Coastal Highway on foot. Motorists also have a duty to operate in a manner that does not endanger others. In Ocean City, many of those on vacation often act more carelessly and are somewhat more likely to be consuming alcohol.
Ocean City Walk Smart Program
Walk Smart is a safety initiative that is the result of multi-agency support, which includes The Town of Ocean City, the Maryland Department of Transportation and others. They are focused on increasing awareness regarding roadway safety such as the dangers of distracted driving. Some of the strategies include roadway improvements, educating people and ensuring that traffic laws are enforced. The program received national recognition for highway safety in 2015 when awarded the Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Award.
Play It Safe Project
For roughly 30 years the town has been active in the Play it Safe Project that encourages young people celebrating or vacationing to do so without abusing drugs or alcohol. The program emphasizes taking personal responsibility and reducing risky behaviors. One primary focus is reminding people of the dangers of driving under the influence.