A pickup truck slammed into a van on Martin Luther King Jr Blvd at the intersection of W Pratt Street in Baltimore this afternoon. The force of the impact was so powerful that the van was flipped on its side. The van had to be taken apart to extract the driver. This is the same intersection where two teenage girls were killed while crossing the street in the crosswalk less than a year ago. But Randall Scott, a traffic engineer with the City’s Department of Transportation, is not concerned. He was quoted in June of last year saying the intersection is not considered to be especially dangerous. Accidents happen, right?
The transportation industry no longer refers to traffic crashes as accidents, preferring to emphasize the known and preventable causes of these collisions. And there is no doubt about the causes of these crashes on MLK. The city has designed a six-lane highway through the heart of Baltimore. But it’s not grade-separated, like JFX which keeps speeding traffic physically apart from people. Homes, businesses, hospitals, and schools are all located directly on MLK which means lots of people walking along and across the highway. 40,000 vehicles a day speed up and down the street as fast as they can, while Baltimore DOT does nothing but encourage it.
It’s time for the city to recognize that designing downtown as a series of highways is not the way of the future. Traffic and pedestrian safety should be the city’s top priority. Speed should not. Slowing traffic down will save lives. Many crashes will be avoided, and those that do happen will be less deadly.
It is entirely within the city’s power to make Baltimore safer. It’s time they act.