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Crashes involving pedestrians rising in Springfield

Published: May. 10, 2022 at 6:15 PM CDT|Updated: May. 10, 2022 at 6:44 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - There have been five pedestrian-related crashes in Springfield over the past two weeks.

For the last five years, the city has been pushing its “Springfield Yields” program to try and get more drivers to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks. There have been new laws to protect pedestrian rights, and extra markings, lights, and warnings have been put up at various crosswalks around the city to try and get drivers’ attention. But according to the numbers, it’s not working.

Those recent cases bring the total of pedestrian-related accidents in Springfield to 28 this year compared to 23 at this time last year.

There have also been two fatalities this year.

“One of them was the car’s (driver) fault, and the other appears to be the pedestrian’s fault,” said Lt. Steve Ramey with the Springfield Police Department’s Traffic Division. “It was night, and they weren’t wearing the proper clothing that they probably should have been wearing and then entering on the crosswalk on a red, but as it’s turning green, they’re still in the crosswalk.”

Ramey points out many factors in these types of crashes. They occur day and night. Drivers and pedestrians share the responsibility of knowing what’s happening around them.

Of the 60 pedestrian crashes in all of 2021, 48 percent were the fault of pedestrians crossing where they weren’t supposed to or against a light, while 45 percent were caused by drivers failing to yield.

The “Springfield Yields” program, calling attention to the fact that drivers are required to yield to walkers at crosswalks, saw a 63 percent compliance rate in 2021 when police conducted enforcement checks and pulled people over. But that compliance rate is now down to 47 percent since enforcement stopped when grant money used for the program ran out.

So what’s the answer now?

“I think enforcement and education are the biggest two things that I always go to,” Ramey answered. “We have gotten more money from MoDOT to continue doing the crosswalk things we were doing last year. So starting in October, we’ll have more money. I’ve seen education work as well, but enforcement really lets people know that we’re taking this very seriously. It is concerning.”

There was undoubtedly a concerning sight on Golden Avenue in Springfield on Tuesday morning when Lawrence Dixon looked like he was maneuvering through an obstacle course in his wheelchair down a street lined with orange cones that were closing down lanes because of construction work.

However, Dixon was forced to be out on the street because the sidewalks were closed too.

“It’s not bad because I pay attention to the road,” he said as cars whizzed by only a few feet away.

Dixon, who suffers from COPD (Chronic Lung Disease), said he’s never been hit by a car in Springfield, but when he was growing up in St. Louis, he was struck several times while on his bike.

“Man, every month-and-a-half or two when I got well, I’d get hit again,” he recalled. “One time, I was hit by a drunk driver, and the guy was so messed up he came on the sidewalk and hit me.”

When asked what he thought the problem was with pedestrian-related accidents in Springfield, he didn’t hesitate to answer.

“I think it’s the people who are driving not paying enough attention,” he said. “It’s those cellphones. The texting and all that. People ain’t paying attention.”

“Inattention is absolutely one of the biggest problems we have with drivers here in Springfield,” Ramey agreed. “They’re looking at their phones, playing with their radios, or talking to other people in their car and not paying attention to their driving. We have a law here in the state of Missouri that if you’re 18-and-under, you can’t be on your phone in your car. I just wish it was a law that nobody should be able to hold their phones while they’re driving.”

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