MORPC, Police Pair For Crosswalk Safety Initiative

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Over the next couple of weeks, Columbus police officers will monitor six crosswalks around the city where there’s high pedestrian traffic. The efforts are to remind drivers to pay attention at crosswalks, especially the ones that don’t have traffic lights.

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission is funding the initiative with a $10,000 federal grant. Kerstin Carr manages active transportation and safety programs for MORPC.

“My hopes will be that this is a lasting effect, and that we can continue to educate motorists on how important it is to yield to pedestrians,” Carr said.

Although MORPC said there was no one incident that triggered the initiative, there have been multiple pedestrian accidents in the past few weeks including two deaths.

The targeted areas are: Street near Wall Street; High Street near Spruce; High Street near Ohio State; Fourth Street near Oak Street; Livingston Avenue near 18-th Avenue and Sunbury Road near Woodward Avenue.

Police will stop drivers who fail to yield to walkers and bikers. Drivers will get a warning and an information card with startling statistics…478 pedestrians in Ohio were killed between 2005 and 2009.

Columbus Police Lieutenant Steve Schwab said drivers also can be fined.

“In some cases an officer can deem that a citation is necessary, but that’s not the intent of this program. Hopefully we can educate the public, make them more aware,” he said.

Ohio State’s fall quarter is in full swing and students cross High Street a lot to get to and from classes.

Sophomore Jennifer Somogyi said she had a close call just the other day when a car almost struck her.

“It’s kind of not safe, and they just need to learn to actually yield when they need to yield,” Somogyi said.

But Tyler Wilson, who’s also a sophomore, said compared to larger cities, Columbus drivers are considerate of pedestrians. “I think drivers do yield. I spent my first semester of college in New York City so I’m used to cabs who are crazy and drivers not yielding. Columbus isn’t exactly a huge metropolis, so I think people are really cautious about pedestrians and bikers,” Wilson said.

Grace Raderstorf is a second year student. She said it’s “treacherous” crossing High Street.

“Do you notice if drivers yield to you guys? Not usually, no. Do you always use a crosswalk? Uh, no.”

While many Ohio State students do jaywalk to avoid waiting for the light to change, Lieutenant Schwab urges drivers to remain patient, even if they do have the right-of-way.

“Understand that there are kids on campus that have a lot on their minds. Maybe they’re freshman, maybe they’re a little bit overwhelmed, they may not be thinking clearly, preoccupied with trying to get to class on time. So, you know, err on the side of being patient,” he said.

Schwab said 218 people have been struck by vehicles in Columbus so far this year. Eighty-two percent of those accidents resulted in injuries. Six people have died.