Chicago police have begun a series of traffic enforcement stings intended to help prevent accidents involving pedestrians in crosswalks.
Many Chicago drivers are unaware that they are required to stop their cars when they encounter pedestrians in marked crosswalks, even when they are crossing the street midblock. Indeed, many Chicago drivers fail to yield, much less stop, for pedestrians in crosswalks. But police and traffic officials are attempting to change that with increased enforcement and improvements to streets and signage.
Each year in Chicago, there are about 3,000 accidents involving a vehicle striking a pedestrian and about 30 lives lost. To try to reduce these numbers, police are planning about 60 pedestrian traffic safety enforcement stings this year, in which undercover police officers will traverse crosswalks on foot and issue citations to drivers who fail to stop for them.
Police issued one citation after another during a recent sting, even though signs warned motorists about the special enforcement action.
Since a state law was passed in 2010, motorists must stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. Prior to that, they were only required to yield and, if necessary, stop. Violators face a possible fine of $120 in Chicago, and up to $500 in some other jurisdictions. More than 1,200 such tickets were issued by Chicago police in 2013, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.
Some streets have also been outfitted with pedestrian refuge islands midway through the crosswalk, so that people who do not have time to walk all the way across a wide street before the light changes can wait safely in the median. Street-level signs that read “stop for pedestrians” have also been installed. City officials say their goal is to cut serious pedestrian injuries in half in five years, and to eliminate them entirely in ten years.