By Ana Alexander
HOWARD LAKE, MN The Howard Lake Police Department, Minnesota State Patrol, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) organized a crosswalk campaign on Highway 12 in Howard Lake Thursday, Sept. 8.
The demonstration was timely, coming just before October, which is typically the deadliest month for pedestrian crashes. In 2015, there were 115 pedestrian crashes in October in Minnesota, resulting in seven deaths, according to the Office of Traffic Safety.
Several volunteers wore brightly-colored shirts, and carried a banner as they demonstrated safe crosswalk behaviors. Other volunteers handed out cards with safety information to drivers who stopped for pedestrians.
While many motorists did stop, there were several who drove through the crosswalks without waiting for the pedestrians to cross, coming close to the volunteers at times. These vehicles were pulled over and given a warning.
“The purpose of this is to be educational,” Howard Lake Police Chief Dave Thompson said.
While these cars were only given warnings, MnDOT employee Michelle Pooler noted that in St. Paul, she’s seen people given $189 tickets for failing to stop for pedestrians.
“I don’t think a lot of people are aware of the crosswalk law,” Pooler said. “You should stop, regardless.”
The crosswalk campaign links to Minnesota’s Toward Zero Deaths program, which is attempting to create a traffic safety culture in Minnesota. The four areas the program concentrates on to reduce crashes are education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency trauma response.
Four percent of pedestrian crashes result in death, which is eight times deadlier than the .05 percent of deaths caused by traffic crashes. Most pedestrian crashes occur on low-speed roadways, which are typically 35 miles per hour.
In 2015, there were 911 crashes in Minnesota in which at least one pedestrian was injured or killed by a vehicle. This is an 11 percent increase from 2014, and the highest the state has seen since 2008, according to the Office of Traffic Safety. The highest number of injuries in 2015 was 53, for males ages 15 to 19. Males account for 71 percent of fatalities in pedestrian crashes, according to Share the Road, a safety program from MnDOT.
By law, pedestrians can only expect drivers to stop when they are in the crosswalk. However, pedestrians and drivers must use common sense, be responsible, and be aware of others to avoid accidents. Statistically, pedestrians and motorists are equally responsible for pedestrian crashes. Awareness is key for both pedestrians and motorists to prevent crashes.
Drivers should watch for pedestrians at all times, and avoid distracted driving. Motorist behaviors that commonly lead to crashes are: failure to yield, inattention, and distraction. Share the Road suggests that drivers put away cell phones, food, and make-up to avoid distracted driving and potential pedestrian crashes. In 2015, 74 fatalities from were linked to inattention in Minnesota.
According to Share the Road, pedestrians should be cautious while crossing the road, and make eye contact with drivers to let them know they intend to cross the road. Pedestrian behaviors that commonly lead to crashes are: inattention, crossing mid-block, walking along roadways, and ignoring signs or signals.