Discover why two City agencies are still heading out for these 90-minute missions – where they write traffic tickets to drivers who ignore pedestrians in crosswalks …
Sharon White, Portland Bureau of Transportation, Community and School Traffic Safety Partnership steps back as a driver, clearly oblivious to her presence in a marked crosswalk, blows past her on NE 82nd Avenue.
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PDOT) and the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) team up for an hour-and-a-half “crosswalk enforcement mission”, the Traffic Division officers who take part say they have good reason to take it seriously.
“We’re doing these missions to educate the public, and get awareness up about pedestrian safety,” explains PPB Traffic Division Sgt. Erin Smith, as he lines up to watch out for the “designated walker’s” safety. It happened on July 27.
Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division Sgt. Erin Smith keeps a sharp eye out for motorists who bully White, or other pedestrians, who cross NE 82nd Avenue of Roses at this crosswalk.
“These missions are conducted at high-volume, high-crash corridors – where we see a lot of problems with pedestrians being struck, especially in crosswalks,” Smith points out. “When a moving vehicle strikes a pedestrian, the person loses. If they’re not just badly injured, they’re killed.”
In addition to being called to investigate such tragic scenes, Sgt. Smith says there’s another component of his job that really makes pedestrian safety issues hit home. “We’re the ones that have to notify their family that they have lost a loved one.”
As if playing a game called “Beat the Pedestrian”, this truck ignores White as she crosses the street in the crosswalk.
One of the several Traffic Division officers working the mission takes off in pursuit of the pickup truck that blew past White.
- To see our story about a similar enforcement earlier this year on SE Foster Road., CLICK HERE.
A crosswalk enforcement action includes a pedestrian decoy positioned at marked or unmarked crosswalks – in this case, it’s a well-marked crosswalk on NE 82nd Avenue at the new Milepost 5 project, at the north edge of Montavilla Park. Drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk – as well as pedestrians who jaywalk – are ticketed or issued a warning by Traffic Division officers.
PDOT’s Sharon White, who has a great deal of experience serving as the pedestrian decoy on these missions, looks both ways before stepping into the crosswalk. Most cars stop, but one whizzes past, just inches in front of her – apparently oblivious to her presence. Sgt. Smith turns on his lights and siren, and heads out to ticket the driver.
With signs and flags clearly posted, informing drivers they are entering an enforcement action area, these missions can hardly be called a “sting”.
“According to Oregon State law, every road intersection – whether or not marked – is a pedestrian crosswalk,” White reminds us. “The pedestrian has the right-of-way there.”
At the same time, pedestrians also have responsibilities, White adds. “They have to take due care when starting to cross the street. They can’t just jump in front of a vehicle and expect them to stop safely. Once a pedestrian shows the intention of crossing a street, cars and trucks need to identify that, recognize that, and stop – so pedestrians can safely cross.”
Sharon White says she takes due care during these missions, because some motorists are not paying attention, or intentionally fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.
The results of the crosswalk enforcement action, White later says, amounted to 26 citations (25 for Failure to Stop for the Pedestrian, one for Careless Driving) and two warning notices.
“These ‘enforcement actions’ are conducted in response to community requests, and to educate the general public on the rules at marked and unmarked crossings,” says PDOT spokesman Dan Anderson. “They are conducted approximately once a month.”
Instead of just being on the lookout for these missions, we suggest drivers adopt the habit of following the law – and letting pedestrians cross. As Sgt. Smith says, “Hitting a pedestrian with your car will forever change your life, and not for the better.”
A “careless driver” learns the penalty for his poor driving practices on this day.
© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News