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Danger intensifies as city traffic increases

Rush-hour traffic in downtown St. Petersburg seems to be getting heavier every day. It's great to see so much activity, but the increase in the number of vehicles speeding, running red lights and ignoring crosswalks is a bad mixture with the growing number of people living downtown, which means more pedestrians.

Downtown resident John Rowley says he has noticed an escalating problem with speeders during the early mornings. Motorists are speeding on Beach Drive between Fifth Avenue N and Central and not stopping at the crosswalks, he said.

Rowley wrote that many people "are not aware of the fact that they are required to stop for people in the crosswalk. Just putting up a sign doesn't seem to work. When there is an event downtown such as Taste of Pinellas, the problem is multiplied. Last weekend I observed at least 10 cars passing through the crosswalk while groups of pedestrians waited to cross, many of them families with small children."

Rowley asked that the Doc mention that motorists must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Consider it done, with one added comment: The responsibility works both ways. State law says that pedestrians are not to suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.

Driver pays for ticket if passengers don't click it

Florida's new seat belt law goes into effect June 30. Law enforcement officers will be able to stop and ticket those 18 and older who are not buckled up in the front seat, and passengers under 18 riding in the back seat must be restrained or in an approved child restraint system. Currently, officers can ticket motorists for seat belt violations only if they stop them because they suspect them of violating some other traffic law.

The impending change has generated several letters to the Doc from caregivers to elderly parents. It seems the kids are struggling with getting mom and dad to buckle up. They wonder how to get passengers to comply and, failing that, who gets the ticket if a vehicle is pulled over because a passenger is not wearing a seat belt?

One reader wrote: "I am a middle-aged man who always, whether as a driver or passenger, uses a vehicle seat belt. As a driver, I will not put the car in drive until all my passengers are properly belted as well. The problem I am having involves the nonparticipation of my elderly mother in this practice. … Would I be subject to receiving a traffic fine if it is my mother who is noncompliant with the seat belt law or would she receive the ticket?"

According to state law, the vehicle operator is violating the law if all passengers are not wearing seat belts. The fine is $30, but it can increase from there depending on the county, because jurisdictions can add additional fees.

So how do we get noncompliant family members to wear seat belts? This issue has to be nonnegotiable. No belt, no ride. For folks who say the belts are too uncomfortable, there are a variety of attachments on the market that are supposed to make wearing seat belts more comfortable. Discount retailers and auto parts stores sell them. If you've found a good product, let us know. We'll pass the information along.

Until next week, happy and safe motoring!

Please e-mail Dr. Delay at [email protected] to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions.

Danger intensifies as city traffic increases 06/20/09 [Last modified: Sunday, June 21, 2009 4:49pm]
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