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PEDESTRIAN SAFETY: Springfield City Council considers new rules for crosswalks

Published: Oct. 19, 2020 at 9:25 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - At least five pedestrians have been hit and killed on Springfield streets this year. The city is looking for ways to better protect walkers and joggers through education, regulation and enforcement.

In Springfield, someone crossing the street cannot count on a driver to look out for them. Mandy Buettgen-Quinn is a traffic safety professional for the city of Springfield. She said, as of 2017, only 25% of drivers were yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks.

“Now we are at 44%, which is an improvement, but again, that means most drivers are still not stopping for pedestrians," Buettgen-Quinn said.

She said, right now, city ordinance states drivers only have to yield when a pedestrian is already in the roadway.

“Fifty percent of all crashes involving a pedestrian, not just fatalities but all crashes, injury, non-injury, we find that about half of those happened in the crosswalk and the pedestrian had every right to be there," Buettgen-Quinn said.

She’s hoping to reduce that risk, proposing a new city ordinance requiring drivers to stop if someone waiting to cross is within three feet of the street.

“We don’t want children to step into the street or an elderly person and a driver might yield or might not, and put themselves harm’s way," Buettgen-Quinn said.

The ordinance changes would also require drivers to yield to any blind person with a white cane or a service dog.

Lt. Curt Ringgold said Springfield Police Officers are looking out for crosswalk violations whenever they can.

“Typically their chance for enforcement is slim because they’re responding to 9-1-1 calls,” he said.

The police department recently received nearly $21,000 in grant funding to pay officers to focus on pedestrian safety. One officer will act as a pedestrian, two more will watch out for drivers who don’t yield, as well as pedestrians who don’t use crosswalks correctly.

“Most of that will be education-based, from a verbal warning to a written warning to a summons," Ringgold said. “It will be based on what the officer feels is necessary to educate that driver, that pedestrian.”

He said the enforcement efforts will not be every day or always in the same locations. He said it will be focused on high traffic areas with low compliance rates.

Ringgold said, in most of the fatal pedestrian-related crashes this year, the pedestrian has been ruled at fault. He said they’ve either been jaywalking or not wearing bright-colored clothing at night.

“We need the full attention of drivers, but that goes with pedestrians too. We see a lot of pedestrians with headphones in and not being able to use that sense of hearing to hear a vehicle,” he said.

Buettgen-Quinn said other communities who have focused on enforcement of crosswalk ordinances have seen compliance rates jump to at least 70%, where more drivers are yielding. She said stopping for pedestrians becomes the norm as more drivers and pedestrians are educated about how to stay safe on the road.

Buettgen-Quinn said new rules are not about ruining anyone’s day, they’re about saving lives.

“We’re not out there to generate revenue, we’re out there to make sure our city can become pedestrian-friendly,” she said.

The City Council held a first reading on the proposal tonight and is expected to vote on the ordinance in two weeks.

Buettgen-Quinn said the city’s public works department is in the process of adding flashing beacons to crosswalks to alert drivers of pedestrians from farther away.

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