'Heads Up in Parking Lots' campaign launches in Montgomery County

ROCKVILLE, Md. (AP/WJLA) - Montgomery County is launching a pedestrian safety campaign focused on cutting the number of people hit in parking lots and garages.

The county's "Heads Up in Parking Lots" campaign was announced Thursday.

Officials say nearly a third of the 423 pedestrians hit in the county last year - 125, to be exact - were in parking lots and garages and 18 percent of them received incapacitating injuries. That rate was similar to injuries pedestrians sustained in collisions on the county's roads. Officials say about half of all parking lot collisions resulted in some type of injury.

And, with more and more people hitting stores for the holidays, the push is on to keep pedestrians safe in these facilities.

One of the triggers to this new push was a July crash at a Sam's Club in Gaithersburg, where there people were hurt when a 77-year-old man drove his car into the store. Another happened a month earlier, when an SUV hit an 81-year-old woman outside a Giant in Potomac.

Several weeks later, another man was hit in the exact same spot.

"It's not just a nudge in a parking lot," Montgomery County spokeswoman Esther Bowring said. "It can be very, very severe as it would be in the roadway.

Officials believe that people using cell phones behind the wheel is at least one cause for the dramtic uptick in parking lot crashes, but pedestrians ignoring crosswalks aren't helping matters, either.

The $50,000 campaign includes messages in county parking garages and lots, ads on buses and bus shelters and reminders on reusable shopping bags. County officials will be putting posters on 250 RideOn buses along with distributing 23,000 reusable shopping bags donning the campaign slogan.