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NIH Roadway Safety Advisory​​

Recently, an employee walking on the NIH Bethesda campus was struck by a vehicle while crossing the street. The employee sustained serious injuries and was transported to the hospital. Unfortunately, on the same day, an NIH employee was struck by a vehicle off campus in the vicinity of his worksite. The employee did not survive his injuries.

From 2019 to date, there have been seven (7) pedestrians and one (1) bicyclist struck by vehicles, and 146 vehicle-on-vehicle accidents reported to the NIH Police on the Bethesda campus. Thankfully, for the vehicle-on-vehicle accidents, the overwhelming majority were minor and did not result in injuries.

As a reminder, all of us are responsible for roadway safety. The following are some safety tips you can incorporate into your daily commute to any NIH location to help reduce the likelihood of an accident happening.

NIH Pedestrian Safety Tips

​Be safe and be seen: make yourself visible to drivers

  • Cross the street in a well-lit area at night.
  • Consider carrying a flashlight when walking at night.
  • Make yourself visible by wearing reflective items/clothing.
  • Stand clear of buses, hedges, parked cars, or other obstacles before crossing so drivers can see you.

 Be smart and alert: avoid dangerous behaviors

  • Always walk on the sidewalk; if there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic.
  • Don't assume vehicles will stop; make eye contact with drivers; don't just look at the vehicle.
  • Don't rely solely on pedestrian signals; look before you cross the road.
  • Be alert to engine noise or backup lights on cars when in parking lots and near on-street parking spaces.
  • Remember, a pedestrian can be at fault for an accident, if they aren't exercising caution crossing roadways.

 Be careful at crossings: look before you step

  • Cross streets at marked crosswalks or intersections, if possible.
  • Obey traffic signals such as WALK/DON'T WALK signs.
  • Look left, right and left again before crossing a street.
  • Watch for turning vehicles; make sure the driver sees you and will stop for you.
  • Look across ALL lanes you must cross and visually clear each lane before proceeding. Just because one motorist stops, do not presume drivers in other lanes can see you and will stop for you.
  • Use extra caution when crossing streets in rain, bright sunlight, snow and other limited visibility conditions.
  • Head Up, phone down. Don't wear earbuds or talk on a cell phone while crossing.
  • Children younger than 10 should cross the street with an adult.

 NIH Driver Safety Tips

Be alert: always watch for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcycles

  • Scan the road and the sides of the road ahead for potential pedestrians.
  • Before making a turn, look in all directions for pedestrians crossing.
  • Do not use your cell phone while driving.
  • Look carefully behind your vehicle for approaching pedestrians before backing up, especially small children.
  • For maximum visibility, keep your windshield clean and headlights on.
  • Bicycles are vehicles and bicyclists may take the entire lane.
  • Scan for bicyclists in traffic and give them the appropriate right-of-way.
  • Watch for bicyclists and motorcycles before opening car doors.

 Be responsible: yield to pedestrians at crosswalks

  • Yield to pedestrians when turning at intersections.
  • Do not block or park in crosswalks.

 Slow down: drive the speed limit and avoid aggressive maneuvers

  • Never pass/overtake a vehicle that is stopped for pedestrians.
  • Come to a complete stop at STOP signs.
  • Use extra caution when driving near children or older pedestrians who may not see or hear you.
  • Always be prepared to stop for pedestrians.
  • Allow extra time for bicyclists to traverse intersections.
  • Recognize hazards that bicyclists may face and give them space to maneuver.
  • Pass bicyclists with care. Treat bicyclists as you would a slow-moving car - don't tailgate and do wait until traffic conditions allow you to safely pass the bicyclist.
  • Reduce speed when passing bicyclists and allow at least three (3) feet of passing space.
  • Check over your shoulder after passing a bicyclist before moving back into a lane.
  • Don't blast your horn near bicyclists.

NIH Bicycle Safety Tips
Be prepared before heading out

  • Ride a bike that fits you - if it's too big, it's harder to control the bike.
  • Ride a bike that works - it really doesn't matter how well you ride if the brakes don't work.
  • Wear equipment to protect you and make you more visible to others, like a bike helmet, bright clothing (during the day), reflective gear, and a white front light and red rear light and reflectors on your bike.
  • Ensure a proper fit so your helmet can best protect you. 
  • Ride one per seat, with both hands on the handlebars, unless signaling a turn.
  • Carry all items in a backpack or strapped to the back of the bike.
  • Tuck and tie your shoelaces and pant legs so they don't get caught in your bike chain.
  • Plan your route - if driving as a vehicle on the road, choose routes with less traffic and slower speeds. Your safest route may be away from traffic altogether, in a bike lane or on a bike path.

Drive defensively - focused and alert 

  • Drive with the flow, in the same direction as traffic.
  • A cyclist MUST obey street signs, signals and road markings, just like a car, or they could be at fault for an accident.
  • Assume the other person doesn't see you; look ahead for hazards or situations to avoid that may cause you to fall.
  • No texting, listening to music or using anything that distracts you by taking your eyes and ears or your mind off the road and traffic. 

Decreasing risk of crashes 

  • Bicyclist deaths are highest during the summer months between June and September.
  • Nearly three quarters of all bicyclist deaths occur in urban areas.
  • Failing to yield the right of way is the highest factor in fatal bike crashes, followed by bicyclists not being visible. 

For questions or concerns regarding roadway safety, please contact the NIH Division of Police Auxiliary Community Policing Officers, Corporal Joan De La Paz at or Corporal Mathew Mehlhaff at​​

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