VIDEO: Montgomery County Police Simulate Pedestrian Collisions | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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VIDEO: Montgomery County Police Simulate Pedestrian Collisions

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A bicycle remains trapped under a car after Montgomery County police simulated an accident.
Matt Bush
A bicycle remains trapped under a car after Montgomery County police simulated an accident.

There were nearly 400 vehicle-pedestrian collisions in Montgomery County last year. It's such an issue of concern that police attend special training to learn how to investigate such incidents. The classes also present stark reminders to drivers and pedestrians about how brutal such collisions can be.

Maybe the easiest thing to determine in a vehicle-pedestrian collision is why they are so difficult to investigate, says captain Thomas Didone of the county police: "When a car hits a pedestrian, the car wins every time. And there's very little evidence left behind the pedestrian, so it's really critical that we study the physics involved in this."

So when a car traveling 40 miles per hour strikes a mannequin that has been set up for the exercise with a watermelon for a head, there's a lot of details to study.

Police start measuring just about everything: how far the car traveled before it stopped, skid marks, and how the pieces of the watermelon scattered about. The aftermath of this wreck showed that the car went well over 100 feet before it stopped, while the mannequin went nearly as far, after it was flipped into the air by the collision. The watermelon went everywhere, with fragments also landing as far as 100 feet away.

A similar demonstration occurred with a car hitting a bicycle. The car traveled more than 100 feet with the bicycle trapped underneath it. Captain Didone says that while these scenes are meant to be instructive for officers, he hopes drivers, bikers and pedestrians take heed as well.

"When you see the violent nature of this crash, you would think that a person being hit by a 3,000 pound vehicle, that would be enough that it would be something they'd want to avoid. But that's not always the case," says Didone.

As many as 11 pedestrians died in Montgomery County last year. One of the goals of the 20 speed and 40 red light cameras in the county was to lower the number of vehicle-pedestrian collisions.

Of those 11 deaths, nine were the fault of the pedestrian, according to Didone. He says while the cameras and distracted driving laws are targeted at driver, pedestrians also have a responsibility.

"They have to cross at crosswalks, they have to use the signal, and everybody must cross and drive undistracted," says Didone. "So many people are on their cell phones. And when they are on their cell phones, they're not able to look out for each other."

Didone says that while collisions are factored in when deciding where cameras will be placed, speed and traffic volume are also considered.

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