METHUEN — Dressed in jeans, a blue T-shirt and black sneakers, Methuen Police Officer Don Craig repeatedly stepped into the crosswalk at 171 East St. on Friday afternoon.
Craig gets about a quarter of the way into the crosswalk, which is painted bright red with white borders. But instead of stopping, some drivers speed past the 30-year police officer. Others swerve around him, some even darting into the oncoming lane of traffic to avoid stopping for the “pedestrian.”
Parked nearby in unmarked cruisers, fellow officers Nick Dore and Jeff Smith are watching this ‘decoy’ scene, as it plays out over and over again. Some drivers do stop for Craig. But when they don’t, Dore and Smith hit their blue lights and pull over the drivers. Violators are handed $200 tickets for failure to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
“People just aren’t paying attention,” said Craig.
Seems simple enough. A pedestrian is standing in crosswalk. He or she has the right of way. Drivers are legally required to stop.
But it doesn’t always happen that way and sometimes with catastrophic results. Nationally, a pedestrian is killed every two hours and injured every eight minutes in traffic crashes, according to police.
Methuen police, armed with a $5,000 grant, have recently been cracking down on crosswalk violators at spots all over the city. When they get pulled over, some drivers tell police they just didn’t see the pedestrian in the crosswalk. Police issued dozens of tickets after Friday’s stings at various locations around the city.
According to state law, all drivers must yield to a pedestrian if they are in a marked crosswalk and crosswalk traffic signals are not in operation there.
The state’s Executive Office of Public Safety and Security issued $192,000 in crosswalk grants to support bicycle and pedestrian safety statewide. With the grant money, communities are allowed to conduct targeted enforcement, use decoys, purchase reflective tape and signs and have educational materials printed as handouts.