Legislation that went into effect July 1 that provides more protection for pedestrians by imposing harsher penalties for motorists who fail to yield to foot traffic has generated a lot of mail to the Doc.
The law calls for fines of $60 plus court costs, and three points assessed on the driver's license of motorists who fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. It was sponsored by state Sen. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey, who aimed to address the increasing number of pedestrian fatalities statewide. Records show that 566 pedestrians died on Florida roads in 2005, the latest year with available statistics.
While some readers praise the tougher fines and stepped-up enforcement, others have raised the issue of pedestrian accountability.
Some pedestrians are as guilty of careless navigation and road rage as some of us behind the wheel. The key point in the pedestrian safety code is that pedestrians need to cross roads lawfully — in designated crosswalks. When all else fails, a little common sense might help.
Keith Reese of Treasure Island wrote: "Doc, it's about time to educate some of the pedestrians about their right of way.
"You now have some people not in a crosswalk just holding up their hand and walking right into the street in front of traffic. I almost hit one of these characters the other day in the John's Pass area. He's waving his fist at me and shouting at me like I did something wrong."
Others are unclear on the requirements of motor vehicles to yield to pedestrians.
Aron Bord wrote: "I deliver pizzas on Madeira and North Redington beaches, and I have some concerns about the state law regarding pedestrian crosswalks. During my many trips to the beach, I have seen a lot of people stopped and ticketed for not yielding the right of way to pedestrians.
"My question is: What is the true definition of a crosswalk? Where does it begin and end? Some of the crosswalks on the beaches cross the entire road flatly, others break across raised medians. I know we drivers are supposed to yield the right of way when pedestrians are in the crosswalk directly in front of us, but what about when they cross into the opposite lane of traffic and have cleared your lanes? Are we to wait until they clear the entire roadway?"
We checked in with Sgt. Jim Bordner of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. He said motorists are required to stop, and remain stopped, when a pedestrian is lawfully in possession of the road, which means they are already in the crosswalk as a vehicle approaches.
Vehicles should not proceed until pedestrians have safely crossed in front of their vehicle and cleared the adjacent lane. In the case of multilane roads, a divided highway separated by a median indicates that vehicles are not required to remain stopped until pedestrians completely clear the road once they have crossed the median.
"That doesn't mean it's okay for a pedestrian to just step off the curb into traffic and expect vehicles to yield," Bordner said.
Some chronic jaywalkers may feel empowered to push the limits and assume they are protected under the law if they step out in front of a moving vehicle. But the reality is that they are required to lawfully take possession of the street by using crosswalks.
Fifth Avenue N/Park Street
New stop sign joins signal improvements
Readers are pleased with the new blinking beacons at Fifth Avenue N and Park Street that caution westbound motorists to stop. But a few wrote in to say that the stop sign on the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue has lost its reflectivity, making it hard to see in the dark or rain.
We forwarded comments to Mike Frederick, the city's neighborhood transportation manager. Frederick said that workers had noticed that the stop sign "could be more visible" when they were reviewing the intersection for the new traffic beacon. He said a larger, high-intensity reflective sign has been installed.
Please e-mail Dr. Delay at email@example.com to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions. Check out Dr. Delay's Bay News 9 blog at www.baynews9.com/DrDelay.html to read more about commuting issues.