EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 6, 2013

City reviews jaywalking complaints

Considers how other cities handle illegal crossings

By Mike LaBella
mlabella@eagletribune.com

---- — HAVERHILL — The city has a problem with jaywalking. That’s what one resident plans to tell the City Council tonight.

City Councilor Michael Hart said resident Miranda Kocher contacted him to ask if there is something the city can do to stop or discourage jaywalking. Hart said Kocher is passionate about her concerns for the safety of pedestrians and that he invited her to speak to the council.

“I offered her an opportunity to describe what her experiences have been,” Hart said, noting he expects she will provide the council with examples of where she’s seen people crossing city streets in a dangerous manner.

Jaywalking (“jay’’ is slang for an inexperienced or naive person) is a term used when pedestrians ignore do-not-walk signals at intersections or when a person crosses in a dangerous manner, such as diagonally, or in Haverhill crossing without using a crosswalk if you are within 300 feet of it, according to a city ordinance.

Hart said the jaywalking issue will likely be sent to the council’s Public Safety Committee for study.

“We might want to look at what other communities do and what we could do to address the problem,” Hart said.

Hart said that enforcing laws against jaywalking can be difficult, especially with the city’s minimum police enforcement resources. He was uncertain of the potential fines, but guessed they are minimal.

According to state law, communities can issue a $1 fine for the first, second and third offense, and a fine of $2 for a fourth or subsequent offense. According to city ordinances regarding pedestrian control regulations, violations such as jaywalking are punishable under the state law.

“It’s human nature to get from one point to another the quickest way possible,” Hart said. “You really don’t want to slam the book at somebody for crossing in an improper way, but on the other hand you want people to approach it in a safe way.

“Today, children are very aware of seat belts and proper behavior in an automobile and that behavior has changed over the years through education,” he said.

Hart says an issue he’s equally or more concerned about is drivers not stopping for pedestrians crossing the street.

“You go to the post office in Washington Square and it happens more than it should,” he said. “Most drivers are good about it, but there are too many that aren’t.”

Depending on what the city ordinances say, Hart would prefer having police warn pedestrians against jaywalking, but he wouldn’t be adverse to fining them, saying it’s an issue that needs to be discussed.

“If we were going to look at enforcement, I’d want to see an equal amount or more for crosswalk violations,” he said.

Hart recalls seeing a front page photo in The Haverhill Gazette three or four decades ago pointing out the dangers of jaywalking on Merrimack Street.

“I guess things haven’t changed much,” he said.