U of M, St. Paul Team Up to Improve Pedestrian Safety at Crosswalks

October 11, 2018 05:58 PM

The University of Minnesota and the City of St. Paul are teaming up to try to change drivers' behaviors. The St. Paul Police Department has been working on the study at eight treated intersections since May.

"The first time I did it, crossing this intersection, I was scared for my life," St. Paul Police Sergeant Kathleen Brown said,

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5 EYEWITNESS NEWS cameras were there as Brown walked back and forth across the White Bear Avenue and Nebraska Avenue East crosswalk, as part of a new study with the University of Minnesota.

"I'm hoping that there's more yielding," Brown said.

The research is cracking down on multi-threat crashes. The city said that's when pedestrians are crossing four-lane roads and a driver pulls around a vehicle that's already stopped for a person crossing the street.

The new penalty: An endangerment citation. At least 10 have been issued since the study began in May. Rather than just paying a fine, a driver must appear in court.


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Part of this research project involves having two smaller "crosswalk ahead" signs before the crosswalk, to give drivers that visual reference to stop ahead of it.

White Bear and Nebraska is one of eight treated crosswalks like it across the city. The full list is below:

  • Snelling and Blair avenues
  • Randolph Avenue and Prior Avenue South
  • East Seventh Street and Bates Avenue
  • Summit Avenue and Chatsworth Street South
  • Dale and Jessamine streets
  • Maryland Avenue East and Walsh Street
  • White Bear Avenue and Nebraska Avenue East
  • Marion Street and Charles Avenue

Despite the treated crosswalk and 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS TV cameras and police squads in sight, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS witnessed up to a dozen people pulled over at that intersection Thursday alone. 

Here is the breakdown at White Bear & Nebraska:

  • Eleven traffic stops
  • Nine citations for failure to yield to pedestrian (no warnings for this offense)
  • Four citations and one warning for "other violation"
  • Three citations for speeding
  • One citation for distracted driving

None of the violations involved passing a stopped car, so the endangerment box was not checked for any of these violations.

"The speeds were a lot higher," Brown said after watching it all unfold.

"I've seen a definite increase, especially here, here at this intersection it's kind of dangerous."

Dr. Nichole Morris with the University of Minnesota said initially some of the intersections had as few as 18 percent of drivers stopping for walkers. Now the average is 75 percent.

"We set out to see, is the enforcement effective, and can we improve it by enhancing some of the engineering and education components," Morris said.

Based on the number of citations issued to drivers, the Stop For Me campaign is already having an impact in Saint Paul. Below are the numbers of warnings and citations issued by St. Paul Police during four enforcement periods in 2018.

The City of St. Paul released the following statement:

"The work this year for the Stop For Me campaign has focused mostly on the 4 waves of enforcement, in conjunction with education & community outreach and engineering changes. The main focus was to support the U of M research project. There have been approximately 10 officers working full time for 2 weeks at a time during each wave.  We rotate around to the various enforcement sites, hitting each one a couple times per week. We have also continued to support the local community requested stop for me events, but did less of those this year. Compliance at the sites has increased over the year and we have seen citations decrease."

The project wraps up this month. The U will make recommendations to the City and Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The problem of pedestrian safety isn't unique to Saint Paul, unfortunately.  According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, the number of pedestrian fatalities nationwide went from 4,699 in 2007 to 5,987 in 2016.

Minnesota also saw a similar increase in the number of pedestrian deaths during that same time frame.

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Brandi Powell

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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