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Quincy officials to look at jaywalking ordinance to decrease pedestrian accidents

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  January 22, 2013 12:25 PM

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Quincy officials may look to strengthen an ordinance for jaywalking after finding that increasing driver citations did little to lower the number of pedestrian accidents.

Despite a sharp increase in enforcement initiatives over the last two years, pedestrian accidents still doubled.

In 2010 there were only 49 accidents, which jumped to 71 in 2011. In 2012 they hit a record high of 98.

Citations for the charge of motorist failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk also drastically increased, going from 136 in 2010, to 170 in 2011, to 776 in 2012.

The numbers had many councilors struggling to find explanations.

“We need other tools [besides enforcement],” said Councilor Doug Gutro at a meeting on pedestrian safety on Jan. 16. “Because you would expect the opposite. You would expect a diminishment on pedestrian accidents based on citations issued, and we’ve seen the exact opposite. Which is incredible. Which leads to the fact that we do need to look at the other issues, engineering, technology, education.”

Yet the city has also worked to improve the engineering aspect of the pedestrian safety effort.

According to DPW Commissioner Daniel Raymondi, city employees had painted 425 crosswalks (a total of 112,328 feet), painted 499,908 feet of yellow and white lines, installed 137 new signs, relocated four signs, repaired 15 signs, and replaced 337 signs throughout the city.

Keenan also discussed numerous outreach campaigns the city has undertaken since the beginning of 2012.

One officer conducted a public safety awareness cable infomercial on Quincy Access Cable. The department also conducted a half hour show on Quincy Access Cable. Community meetings were conducted and brochures were handed out encouraging pedestrian awareness throughout the city.

Yet they did little to halt the growing number of accidents in the city.

Councilor Margaret Laforest suggested jaywalking might be the issue.

Yet according to Police Chief Paul Keenan, the city’s current jaywalking ordinance is impossible to enforce, as jaywalkers do not have to identify themselves to officers.

The fine is also so low – at $1 - that the rule is basically “a dog with no teeth,” Keenan said.

As a result, Laforest suggested that the city work to change their ordinance, or work with the state to make stricter jaywalking laws, as is the case in New York and other states.

“We’re hearing data that it’s the pedestrians that are at fault, not crossing the crosswalk, not looking when they cross the street … if we need this as a tool for a strong ordinance, I’d like to work with the chairman on that,” Laforest said.

Councilors recognized that helping pedestrians cross the road more safely was only one part of the solution. Distracted driving was also broached as a danger to the city’s pedestrians.

Yet solutions for these issues may already be at hand.

“Every community in the world deals with this issue, and we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but there are some good ideas out there to keep folks safe,” Gutro said.

Gutro referred to campaigns in Chicago, where groups have installed flags at key intersections and have made an effort to remind the city of the high pedestrian fatality rate in the city.

Burlington, Vermont; DC; Maryland; and North Virginia each have similar campaigns.

Councilors agreed to continue to work out the issues and discuss the problem in a series of future meetings. Department heads present at the meeting also said they would continue efforts to make the city safer.

"It is a work in progress," Keenan said. "It is a concern for all of us and for the mayor’s office. He's put us to the task to resolve some of these issues…we make every effort, it's not an easy problem, and it's going to take more than enforcement."

To see more statistics on pedestrian safety in Quincy, click here.

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