The Tampa area is one of the most dangerous in the nation for pedestrians. As a result, police are cracking down on jaywalkers in an effort to reduce injuries and deaths from car accidents involving pedestrians, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
In 2013, Pinellas County had 20 pedestrian fatalities and nine bicyclist deaths.
This is why Clearwater police are taking steps to prevent jaywalking and crosswalk violations involving bikes and cars.
The city recently received a High Visibility Grant of about $29,000 from the Florida Department of Transportation. The grant pays for overtime for police officers who are assigned to educate the public as well as enforce traffic laws.
As part of the education initiative, officers are stopping jaywalkers, giving them a warning and talking to them about pedestrian safety. In addition, police are handing out bike lights to people riding without them.
“This is a multifaceted program,” Clearwater police Lt. David Dalton told the newspaper. “Our primary goal is awareness and education and then comes the enforcement phase.”
The program in Clearwater started in March and goes to September. Every week begins with education patrols and ends with enforcement patrols.
One day in mid-April, Officer Andrew Anderson gave out four jaywalking tickets in two hours.
Often enforcement isn’t enough to deter illegal street crossing, because after police stop handing out tickets, many people go back to jaywalking. That’s why Dalton thinks that adding education along with enforcement will make a difference.
Clearwater is also looking to improve roads and make them more pedestrian-friendly. Dalton said that officers on patrol are asked to look for areas where pedestrian safety can be improved. Safety upgrades could include additional crosswalks and lighting for existing ones.
Areas with high numbers of pedestrian deaths usually are those that are growing in population and expanding outward, said Steve Benson, FDOT’s district safety program manager. Florida ranks number three in the country for pedestrian fatalities, and Benson thinks that it will take time before that ranking improves.
Pedestrians are strongly encouraged to always obey traffic laws and cross streets only at designated crosswalks and when they have the right-of-way.