Chicago sting nabs crosswalk scofflaws
CHICAGO – Officer Grace Delgado tried to cross the road – as a reminder to motorists that they must stop whenever someone steps into a crosswalk.
In an unusual undercover operation, Delgado posed as a pedestrian on a busy street while fellow officers waited for drivers to barrel past her in violation of a law that requires them to yield at crosswalks, even if there is no stop sign.
Chicago this year joined a growing number of cities that are sending officers into traffic to make motorists pay more attention to pedestrians.
“People, they don’t care,” said Delgado, whose pink baseball hat and orange blouse made her tough to miss. “The whole mentality is ‘Get out of my way.’ ” With her help, police stopped 78 drivers in two hours and told them they’d violated the law, but they weren’t given tickets.
The universal problem: More cars, and more pedestrians.
“We’re beginning to see a healthy desire of older folks to remain active and go out for their daily walks,” said Doug Hecox of the Federal Highway Administration. “That, along with more cars . . . is a recipe for danger.”
“The way gas prices are, people are rediscovering their feet,” said Pam Fischer, highway traffic safety director in New Jersey, which recently launched a “Cops in the Crosswalks” program.
After police in Bellingham, Wash., started such a program in 2002, the percentage of drivers who yielded to pedestrians rose at least 25 percent.
In St. Petersburg, Fla., the percentage of drivers who yielded to pedestrians jumped from 2 percent in 2003 to 82 percent in 2007 after police installed flashing beacons and began writing tickets. Pedestrian crashes dropped 17 percent between 2005 and 2006.