State promotes pedestrian safety at beaches

DEWEY BEACH — She’s felt “pretty safe” walking through her hometown for 15 years now.

Kelly Raineri acknowledges, however, the summer beach season increases the risk for calamity.
“Obviously when you have more traffic and more pedestrians there’s the chance for more accidents,” the Dewey Beach resident said this week.

In an effort to mitigate the peril, the a pilot Delaware Office of Highway Safety program is hitting the streets to increase safety for visitors and residents alike.

Through Labor Day weekend, OHS sponsored street teams will distribute glow-in-the-dark reflectors and offer safety tips. Teams will focus on Jolly Trolley stops from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. to educate and protect.

The program — modeled after an early initiative in New Castle County — debuted last weekend and a two-member team contacted 350 people in Dewey Beach and Rehoboth Beach. Deployment will continue on one day from Sunday through Tuesday each week.

“It’s encouraging to see the state taking a proactive approach to increasing public safety,” said Ms. Rainieri, who believes added flashing lights and signs at cross walks are crucial as well.

“Anything that can help save a life is worth whatever time and effort it takes.”

Starboard owner Steve “Monty” Montgomery said many pedestrians “don’t realize they are stepping onto a state highway. Most vehicles are heading from point A to point B and not stopping in Dewey. They’re not slowing down when they pass through.

“Ninety-five percent of people do it right, they get it, but all these towns have a few who will walk right out into the middle of the street.”
In this most deadly stretch, 60 percent of fatal accidents involve pedestrians under the influence and drivers failing to see them cross the road, OHS said.

Making contact
Christine McCann of Aloysius Butler & Clark – which markets for OHS – was part of the first team to deploy and met with a number of grateful folks on foot.
“They understand that pedestrian safety is an issue and they appreciated the reflectors that can clip on to a shirt, bag, stroller, pants and other items.

“A lot of them had personal stories that they’ve experienced and said they’d let friends and family know about the program to make contact.”
Added AB&C’s Michael Cordrey, “This is a unique program with the benefit of putting our people where the pedestrians are.”
OHS spokeswoman Cynthia Cavett invoked the mantra ‘Walk Smart, Walk Bright” when explaining the campaign’s aim.

“The primary goal is to raise awareness of the dangers, and influence positive safety behaviors to reduce pedestrian traffic related deaths and injuries in crashes throughout the state of Delaware,” she said.

“Our purpose for the Pedestrian Safety Street Team deployment program at the beach is to help meaningfully reduce the potential for pedestrian deaths at Delaware beaches this summer, and to ensure the summer beach season is a safe one.”
Dewey Beach Police regularly respond to incidents involving vehicles damaged following abrupt stops to avoid pedestrians, and walkers who disregard crosswalk lights or avoid intersections completely when crossing across Coastal Highway.

“We strongly support programs like this that focus on specific issues and invest resources in addressing them,” spokesman Sgt. Clifford Dempsey said.

“We’re happy to partner with OHS in assisting in any way possible to add to the efforts.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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