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Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Stop for Me campaign finds only 31% stop for pedestrians!

Posted on 09 April 2018 by Calvin

By JANE MCCLURE
Stop for Me, St. Paul’s annual pedestrian safety campaign, is on the move. The 2018 effort gets underway in April, with events in neighborhoods around the city through the summer and fall. This year’s work will not only include the familiar banners and community activists promoting pedestrian safety awareness, but it will also include a University of Minnesota and Western Michigan University-led study of pedestrian crossings and ways to keep people safe. The effort, which St. Paul City Council members heard about Mar. 21, includes studies of selected crossings as well as research on driver behavior.

Stop for Me starts Apr. 18 with St. Paul Police Department officer training. The first enforcement activities are Apr. 18-May 1. This phase, in which motorists will receive warnings, is when school and media engagement ramps up. The follow-up phases, when motorists could receive tickets are June 4-18, Aug. 6-20 and Oct. 1-15. Neighborhood locations haven’t been announced.

Last year St. Paul had 60 enforcement events.

Stop for Me is getting underway at the same time city Public Works staff are rolling ideas for a citywide pedestrian plan. A plan open house Mar. 22 at Arlington Hills Community Center drew a large crowd. One goal of the plan is to ensure that the City adds sidewalks in places where there are none and makes it safer for people to walk.

Stop for Me focuses on getting people safely across streets.

“High-visibility enforcement sends the messages that we care about pedestrians,” said Nichole Morris. It also sends a message that the city is serious about law enforcement. Morris is the director of the HumanFIRST Laboratory in the University of Minnesota Department of Mechanical Engineering. She describes her work as a mix of engineering and psychology.

This year’s Stop for Me enforcement includes the option for police to evaluate circumstances and check a box indicating if a motorist is endangering life or property. Checking that box means the driver automatically goes to court and cannot simply pay the fine, said Sgt. Jeremy Ellison.

Morris reviewed recent research conducted at several St. Paul intersections without signals. Teams worked at the intersections, with one person crossing the street and a second making notes of driver behavior. A wide range of two-lane and four-lane streets were studied citywide. Some have pedestrian refuges or medians and others don’t.

In the recent tests vehicles did 1,581 crossings. The average test had about 67 vehicles per period, and 20 pedestrian crossings during that time. On average, only three in 10 vehicles stopped.

“We have a driving culture problem in St. Paul,” Morris said. “It requires a cultural solution.” While education enforcement and street engineering can provide some help, Morris said safe driving needs to be reinforced through other cues. One idea is to post signs during Stop for Me, to indicate the percentage of drivers who stop for pedestrians.

That percentage was only 31 percent during the recent data collection, a statistic Morris said, “is nothing to smile about.” Posting the percentage and encouraging drivers to change behavior “could become a community rallying cry. This is what St. Paul does. We stop for pedestrians.”

Morris is not sure why St. Paul has such a low percentage of people who stop. One issue is four-lane streets or wider two-lane streets.

One dangerous situation, which has claimed the lives of some St. Paul pedestrians in recent years, is on four-lane streets. One motorist will stop for the pedestrian, while another flies through. Ellison said that’s one reason why it is important to stop father back for pedestrians, to give them better sightlines.

Pedestrian fatalities and injuries represent a growing number of all traffic fatalities and injuries nationwide. Between 2004 and 2013, the percent of traffic deaths for pedestrians rose from 10.9 percent of the total to 14.5 percent.

The uptick in motor vehicle-pedestrian accidents is also being seen in St. Paul, said Morris. In 2015 the city had 146 vehicle-pedestrian crashes, with six being fatalities. 2016 had 188 crashes and four fatalities. 2017 ended with 193 crashes and three fatalities.

 

 

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