By Rich Pollack
You’re driving north on State Road A1A, approaching Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach, when from between two parked cars you see someone start walking out into your lane of traffic.
You stop to avoid hitting the pedestrian but as you approach the intersection ahead, you wonder what would have happened had you taken your eyes off the road for even a few seconds. The pedestrian made the assumption you would stop, but you shudder to think about what the consequences would have been if you didn’t see him.
Delray Beach police know full well what could, and has, happened. So through May they’ll be stepping up their efforts to hand out written warnings and citations to pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers who don’t follow the law.
“It’s not safe for pedestrians who do not use crosswalks to just step out onto A1A assuming that the approaching car is going to stop,” says Sgt. Jeff Rasor, who leads the Delray Beach Police Department’s Traffic Unit. “That doesn’t always happen.”
Thanks to a $46,000 federal grant administered by the Florida Department of Transportation, the Police Department has been able to launch a “high visibility enforcement for pedestrian, bicycle and motorist safety” initiative, which involves having traffic officers working additional hours to help reduce crashes.
The program launched in early November with three months of verbal warnings for jaywalking and other traffic offenses, and officers handing out brochures full of safety information. About 1,500 verbal warnings were issued.
Then last month, the enforcement effort moved into higher gear, with written warnings and citations. In the first week alone, the officers assigned to the project wrote 51 citations or warnings to pedestrians and more than 150 citations or warnings to motorists.
While the program is a citywide effort, Rasor says the department is focused on specific areas.
“We’re targeting areas where you’re mixing a high volume of pedestrian traffic with a high volume of vehicles,” he said.
Downtown is high on the list, especially at night when it is not uncommon for pedestrians to not use crosswalks and to cross in front of oncoming traffic.
Rasor said the department has received calls from residents who travel downtown mentioning the nighttime problem and thanking police for their enforcement efforts.
Other roads where motorists and pedestrians can expect to see increased enforcement efforts include portions of Atlantic Avenue outside the downtown area, Linton Boulevard, Lake Ida Road, South Federal Highway and Military Trail.
Officers will also be visible along portions of State Road A1A where there is heavy pedestrian and bicycle usage.
“The ultimate goal is to reduce the number of serious injuries,” Rasor said.
The efforts, he said, could also help some of the traffic problems in town, since an accident investigation by police often hinders traffic flow. “A serious accident could tie up traffic for two to three hours,” he said.