Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Initiatives promote traffic and pedestrian safety in St. Paul

Posted on 08 April 2019 by Calvin

Starting Apr. 1, the St. Paul Police Department (SPPD) implemented their new 12-person Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Unit. According to Commander Jeremy Ellison, the SPPD is making pedestrian and bike safety one of its priorities in 2019—under the direction of Police Chief Todd Axtell. Three full-time employees added to this unit will focus exclusively on the problem of distracted drivers across the city.

Ellison explained that those officers will travel in unmarked, high clearance SUVs so they can better see into cars they are monitoring. “We want people to know that our officers will be out there watching for distracted drivers,” he said. “Our goal is no longer to catch people unaware. We want drivers to be informed, to make smart decisions, and to be part of improving public safety. A good day will be a day when we don’t write any tickets.”

Minnesota law states it is illegal to use a wireless communication device to write, read, or send an electronic message while driving or stopped in traffic. While that law has been on the books for a while, it has been difficult to enforce; creating the Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Unit should help.

The cost of a first violation will be $136; the cost of a second violation for the same offense will be $366. According to Ellison, “Law enforcement supports Minnesota becoming a ‘hands-free’ state for cell phone use.” A bill toward that end moved through legislative committee in January and is expected to pass with bipartisan support.

Photo right: Commander Jeremy Ellison is behind the wheel of one of the St. Paul Police Department’s new Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Unit enforcement vehicles. Ellison said, “Every other day in the City of St. Paul there’s a crash involving a pedestrian. Last month there were two pedestrian fatalities, and that’s two too many.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Right now, nobody really knows how much of a problem distracted

driving is. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is funding research projects in several major cities, and St. Paul was chosen to participate. The goal of these projects is to gather data to determine what percentage of crashes are caused by drivers distracted by electronic devices.

On another front, the Stop for Me Campaign is an ongoing initiative to improve public safety in St. Paul. Organized by St. Paul’s 17 district councils, St. Paul Smart Trips, and the SPPD, Stop for Me teaches that stopping for pedestrians and bicyclists isn’t just common courtesy—it’s the law. “Last year, there were 108 Stop for Me events in St. Paul,” Ellison said. “We looked at crash data for marked crosswalks (where there wasn’t a traffic signal) to decide where to hold these events. We met with community members at dangerous intersections to practice safe crossing techniques for all ages.” To learn more about scheduling a Stop for Me event in your neighborhood this spring or summer, email jeremy.ellison@ci.stpaul.mn.us.

According to Commander Ellison, the following safety information is worth knowing:
• Along with Metro Transit, the SPPD believes in the saying, “See tracks, think train.” Every time you cross the LRT track, be mentally prepared that a train may be coming.
• Minnesota law states that when a traffic light has turned yellow, a motorist should be stopping—not accelerating through the intersection.
• If a pedestrian puts one foot into the street, an oncoming motorist should be stopping. Do not hope or assume, but make sure it is safe to cross. A pedestrian is ten times more likely to die in a collision with a car than the occupants of two vehicles that collide.
• If you’re riding or walking your bike in a marked pedestrian crossing, you’re considered a pedestrian and cars are required to yield.



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