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St. Petersburg police act to decrease pedestrian accidents

ST. PETERSBURG — Walking his dog downtown Monday morning, Steve Sweaney, 48, sauntered across First Avenue S near Fourth Street.

A police officer was waiting for him on the other side, warning ticket in hand.

"Pedestrians must comply with state law," it read. "Motorists are not the only ones who can get tickets."

The warning ticket, one of many that St. Petersburg police doled out at a downtown intersection Monday, was part of a effort to reduce the number of accidents involving pedestrians.

Last year, the number of pedestrians hit in St. Petersburg jumped 41 percent, to 181, including seven fatalities. With about 150 accidents and four fatalities so far, this year isn't far behind, said St. Petersburg police traffic commander Bill Korinek.

"It's a big issue not only in St. Petersburg, but the whole Tampa Bay area," he said. "We're going at it in earnest starting now."

He said a 5 percent decrease in pedestrian-involved crashes would be meaningful.

On Monday, five officers and a police sergeant descended on a downtown intersection where Shirley Ann Harris, 74, was fatally struck in July by a hit-and-run driver while walking in the crosswalk. The driver was never arrested, and police are still looking for information about the crash. Police encourage people with information to contact St. Petersburg Officer Terry Nagle at (727) 893-4097.

Officers told pedestrians Monday that they must obey traffic signals, walk on the sidewalk and cross at marked crosswalks. Police handed out warning tickets when people broke the rules.

In the first hour of the enforcement effort, at least 12 pedestrians and three bicyclists crossed illegally — many right in front of a uniformed officer. One person jaywalked — twice — at the same intersection.

Another couple, a solid orange "don't walk" sign directly in their path, walked across the street and warmly greeted Korinek, apparently unaware that they had broken the law. He gave them warning tickets. They nervously chuckled.

It's not a law you want to laugh off: Jaywalking can cost pedestrians $62.50.

Police on Monday also were on the lookout for red-light runners and vehicles that didn't properly yield to pedestrians. Drivers who fail to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk can be fined $166.

Sweaney, the midblock crosser, said he didn't know that the fine for jaywalking was so steep. But he said it was enough to make him toe the line.

"I'm going to walk the walk now," Sweaney said. "That's crazy there."

St. Petersburg police act to decrease pedestrian accidents 11/22/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 12:05am]
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