Police begin increased crosswalk awareness campaign

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Motorists of Warwick be warned – obey traffic laws and respect the rights of way of pedestrians entering crosswalks, otherwise you might be pulled over and put on blast as part of an ongoing series of educational exercises by the Warwick Police Department that target dangerous behavior at crosswalks around the city.

Last Thursday morning, the police conducted the first of what they said will be many subsequent exercises of the “Walk Wise Warwick Program,” a program now in its second year which deploys a plain-clothes officer at a crosswalk and tests the statutory knowledge and safety wariness of motorists.

“The Warwick Police Department in the year 2017 year to date has investigated 13 accidents that have involved our crash reconstruction team,” said Major Rick Rathbun of the Warwick Police Department. “Those numbers are higher than what are normal statistically. We normally average about 10 per year, so that's an alarming rate at this point.”

Rathbun reported that there had already been 59 total traffic-related deaths in Rhode Island this year, and that 14 of those involved pedestrians. In Warwick, Rathbun said that there had been four accidents involving motor vehicles hitting pedestrians this year, three of which wound up being fatal. Two such events just occurred back-to-back on Sept. 22 and Sept. 23, one of which was fatal.

On Thursday, an undercover officer donned a bright green shirt and walked back and forth in the crosswalk at the corner of Main Avenue and Morse Street – the same intersection where a young man was killed by a collision in May.

If a motorist showed aggression towards the officer and sped up to try to prevent the officer from crossing, or refused to slow down, a team of officers ahead of the crosswalk kicked into gear and immediately pulled the perpetrator over. The driver would then be checked for any driving violations, such as speeding or distracted driving, and then send on their way with a warning and, hopefully, a better perspective on safe driving.

“Because today is a warning or education day, [officers will] have a discussion with them of what they observed specifically,” Rathbun said of what happens after someone is pulled over. “They'll find out what was the reason. Any time we do a car stop that's part of what we're looking for. We're trying to convey the message and remind them that this is your statutory obligation. You have to yield to pedestrians inside a cross walk.”

One of the very first cars that encountered the officer on Thursday failed to stop and passed within inches of the officer. Soon after, another did the same and was promptly pulled over by Sgt. John Kelly, who heads the Traffic Division for Warwick Police.

“She said she was going to the gym,” Kelly said after issuing her a warning and a lesson on pedestrian safety statutes. “That’s it.”

Over the course of just a couple of hours, the Warwick Police issued 25 total warnings for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk and six citations for various infractions, including speeding. Major Rathbun said it was unfortunately not uncommon to get such a high volume of statutory infractions in such a short a window.

“Unfortunately no [it’s not uncommon], and that's why we saw the need last year to develop this program,” he said. “It's not a specific problem to Warwick, it's not a specific problem to the state of Rhode Island…Today's efforts, as you can see, require us to keep doing this and we will continue to keep doing this moving forward.”

The education campaign is not just for motorists, but also the pedestrians who enter crosswalks as well.

“For the pedestrians themselves, we want to remind them to avoid distractions,” Rathbun said. “We've had incidents where pedestrians are texting, using their cell phones or looking down as they're crossing the roadway. They need to try to make eye contact with the operator. The assumption that a motorist sees them at night is obviously a little bit more complicated.”

As for whether or not some areas of Warwick are more dangerous than others, Rathbun answered that most of the main roads in Warwick are state roads with at least four lanes of traffic. No matter where the crosswalk is located, Rathbun said it is on the motorists and pedestrians to exercise good judgment and respect for one another in order to prevent more tragic accidents from occurring.

“There's not a specific area in terms of one specific crosswalk,” he said. “We're dealing with traffic congestion and increased capabilities of vehicles that go faster than people realize. So it's a matter of everybody cooperating on the roadway, pedestrians being aware of what's going on and not just assuming that everybody sees what they're doing and motorists being aware of what's going on and giving that right of way to them.”

The Walk Wise Warwick Program is made possible with grant funding from the Department of Transportation’s Office of Highway Safety. The Warwick Police Traffic Unit “will be conducting many more enforcement actions related to pedestrian safety in the following months,” according to a release following the exercise.

Comments

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Kammy

I think this is a very good strategy for keeping drivers and pedestrians focused on safety. You will certainly think twice about things if you get pulled over and given a warning. I live near Greggs and the drivers are extremely dangerous. It takes a lot of patience to wait to turn left once there is no traffic. Many times drivers cut the corner fast to get in quickly and don't pay any attention to see if someone is in the crosswalk, especially now since they opened up the additional parking across the street of the restaurant. There have been so many near misses. By the same token, bicyclists don't even bother to look when biking down the street and go right into oncoming traffic. I wish this could take place all year long but I know that it would take a lot of manpower and money to make it happen. Thank you Warwick Police Department for doing your best to keep Warwick Citizens safe.

Tuesday, October 3
Justanidiot

As a pedestrian, I always give the right of way to the car. I know it is mine, but the number of people paying attention to the road is diminishing . They have texts, phones, kids, radios, conversations, and all the rest to tend to. Driving is way down on the list.

Tuesday, October 3
richardcorrente

When I was pulled over for not wearing a seat belt it cost me $85.00 and I resented it because I wasn't endangering anyone but myself. As in the helmet law, I felt "let those who ride, decide."

This incident however, is the opposite. It's a clear example of our police people helping the cause of safety and I applaud it.

When I see it happening I will give a thumbs up sign to the officer to show my respect.

Rick Corrente

Tuesday, October 3
CrickeeRaven

"When I was pulled over for not wearing a seat belt it cost me $85.00..."

So now the fake "mayor" is admitting that he is also a scofflaw, in addition to a tax delinquent and frequent liar.

"I resented it because I wasn't endangering anyone but myself."

And here he is substituting his own judgment [which has been proven lacking, time and again] for state law.

"As in the helmet law, I felt 'let those who ride, decide.'"

That is not the Rhode Island helmet law. Under current law, all riders under 21 and those who have had their licenses less than a year must wear a helmet.

Once again the fake "mayor" shows himself to have a poor grasp of facts, a penchant for ignoring laws, and a misguided sense that his opinion counts for anything. He will certainly continue to humiliate himself in his next comments. He also does not specify whether he paid the fine for failing to follow the law, and given his past record of delinquencies, it is doubtful that he met his responsibility in this case,

Wednesday, October 4
Justanidiot

of course the trickspayers mayer is all in flavor of entrapment

Wednesday, October 4
Kammy

Justanidiot - I didn't see the activity as entrapment because technically speaking they are not ticketing but warning. However, if you do currently have any traffic violations I am sure the warning will become much more. Clearly, drivers in Warwick need to slow down and pay attention. The program has merit and I think that the police department is working hard trying to educate rather than entrap. I think that one pedestrian fatality is one too many so hopefully the “Walk Wise Warwick Program” will help bring awareness and not turn into a money-making ticket program.

Wednesday, October 4
SCOT63

This is a great idea, but the way the police are just walking right into the crosswalk as you are approaching is giving drivers no time to stop!!! they will have to jam on their brakes and may cause more accidents.

Go back and watch the news broadcast and you will see how they are showing no regard for safety if they continue to walk into traffic when the cars really would not have any reaction time. Pedestrians also need to use caution.

Sorry police need to find a better way than just walking into traffic.

Wednesday, October 4
Justanidiot

Agreed SCOT63

Entrapment.

Thursday, October 5
DanElliott

Pedestrians absolutely have the right of way in a crosswalk. This doesn't mean crosswalks are magic, though. Two people have died in the last two years crossing Main Ave. Assuming a vehicle will stop could cost you your life. As Justanidiot noted, many people on the road are entertaining themselves five different ways. Driving the car safely is an afterthought.

Kammy, I would like to see the campaign extended to bicycles as well. Some of these bike riders seem to operate on the road as cars until they encounter a traffic sign, at which point they become bicycles and operate however they please. The mayor described this behavior just right - "Those who ride decide" what the rules are. A few months ago, I was driving in the Apponaug roundabout heading north from Veterans Dr. toward Greenwich Ave. when a guy on a bike heading west at about 30 mph ignored the Yield sign and flew into the roundabout right in front of my truck, passing just a few inches in front of my grill. This was prior to the daily orange cone obstacle course, and would've been my second casualty in Apponaug caused by someone headed west failing to yield at the roundabout. Bike riders need to respect the rules of the road too.

Dan Elliott

Thursday, October 5
DillonYork

Try doing that in the Appanoag circle of death. They can not even yield at a Yield sign. Never mind let me go in the crosswalk. YES the car comes first but when I am waiting there to walk I HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY. it is not like I am doing the suicide walk into traffic.

Thursday, October 5
RISchadenfreude

Kammy,

Building a concrete island in the center of Maple Street at Post Road would keep drivers from cutting that corner the way they do now- speed bumps would slow them down, also.

...but don't count on that happening soon- a pedestrian or two has to be seriously injured, or worse, first.

Tuesday, October 31