Why don’t MN drivers get the crosswalk law?

One of the takeaways from our recent trip to sun country is that drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists really can co-exist when everyone wants to.

Florida has some pretty obvious laws that pedestrians have the right of way and in our five days there, everyone got to where they needed to go without calamity or anger, surprising since you couldn’t throw a sand dollar there without hitting a Minnesotan.

But then we come back home and drive like idiots, forcing people to scurry across crosswalks, even though we have roughly the same law here; we just choose to ignore it. In a state where 1 out of every 7 drivers had a DUI conviction, perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising. We’re some of the most irresponsible drivers in the country.

Every now and again in St. Paul, city officials vow to do something about this, but nothing ever seems to change.

That doesn’t prevent them from giving it another go, and that’s what’s happening, the Pioneer Press reports today.

“Right now, we’re focused on Grand Avenue. We’re watching the intersections and stopping automobiles that fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks,” police department spokesman Steve Linders tells the paper.

A map the Pioneer Press put together shows they could pick any part of the city; there are that many collisions between pedestrian and driver.

Four Ramsey County law enforcement agencies kicked off the program last week. During a five-hour period Friday, officers stopped 56 vehicles for failing to yield to pedestrians on Grand Avenue.

They also handed out 82 cards to pedestrians, including 15 who could have been ticketed for crossing the street illegally.

The education campaign is coordinated by the Ramsey County Traffic Safety Initiative, which received a $25,000 grant from the Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths organization.

The organization, a joint project of the state departments of Transportation, Health and Public Safety, funds efforts to reduce traffic fatalities. The grant for this project was drawn from federal funds.
From 2009 to 2013 — the most recent data available — motor vehicles struck and killed 18 pedestrians in St. Paul, according to the Department of Public Safety.

Besides Grand Avenue, other traffic safety hot spots will be targeted in coming weeks, Linders said. Among them is White Bear Avenue, which also has a high number of traffic accidents involving pedestrians.

Officers will begin issuing tickets in April, and the increased enforcement will continue through summer.

The $100 fine for failing to stop for pedestrians is more than the penalty in Florida, by the way, and the area where we spent the last few days still has problems, particularly when it comes to bikes and cars. A dozen have been killed in southwest Florida in the last year.

History says the St. Paul effort will fade, and drivers — if they change their behavior at all — will go back to being the inconsiderate oofs they often are in the city.