Drivers, pedestrians cited in crosswalk crackdown

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Some drivers and pedestrians passing through Oakland intersections yesterday learned an expensive lesson in crosswalk safety.

Police wrote 33 citations and 14 warnings for violations in a two-hour span, more than organizers said they expected.

Drivers who failed to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks will pay about $250 in fines and costs, and pedestrians receiving citations for crossing dangerously outside of designated areas can expect to pay nearly $80.

Jen Fine, a freshman rehabilitation science student at the University of Pittsburgh, said she was happy to see police patrol the area to crack down on impatient and reckless drivers.

"I don't feel comfortable ... crossing where there aren't signals, but this is so convenient," Ms. Fine, 18, said as she waited for an opening to cross on Bigelow Boulevard. "Cars just plow right through. It's scary."

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, police and volunteers from local agencies targeted Oakland intersections along Forbes and Fifth avenues and the Boulevard of the Allies from 10 a.m. to noon in an effort to educate both drivers and pedestrians about crosswalk laws.

David Pritt, safety press officer for PennDOT District 11, and Stephen Patchan, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the city, continually crossed Bigelow Boulevard to test driver response. City, University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University police were on hand to write citations.

"It's a little high, to be honest," Mr. Pritt said of the 47 citations issued. "That's a lot of violations."

The stretch of Bigelow Boulevard between Forbes and Fifth avenues brought the most violations due to the combination of high traffic and the mid-block crosswalk that connects Pitt's student union and the Cathedral of Learning.

Mr. Pritt said drivers need to pay more attention to people using the crosswalk, and they should always approach mid-block crosswalks with caution.

Representatives from the Oakland Transportation Management Association and the Allegheny County Health Department passed out pamphlets on pedestrian safety material, reminding pedestrians that they may only legally cross at corners and designated crosswalks.

Matt Becker, a freshman computer science student, said pedestrians are as much of a problem as drivers.

"I think students are over-aggressive when they run into the crosswalk without watching for the cars that are already coming," Mr. Becker, 19, said. "Drivers can't just slam on the brakes if there's a line of traffic."

Jaleesa Scott, a finance student at Pitt, agreed that pedestrians and drivers both are guilty of snarling traffic, but she questioned the need for the program.

"I can't remember any serious accidents here lately, and we're in the middle of a recession," said Ms. Scott, 20. "Nobody can afford these tickets."

The program was part of Drive Safe PA, a statewide effort to combat aggressive, impaired and unbelted driving. More than 130 pedestrians were struck by vehicles in 2007, resulting in 10 fatalities in Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties. There were 4,600 pedestrians hit by vehicles statewide, resulting in 155 deaths.

Jessica LaDow can be reached at or 412-263-1601.


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