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Pa. 'pedestrian sting' is just a warning this time

November 08, 2008|By DON AINES

WAYNESBORO, PA. - Fritzi Schreffler and Joe Burns took their lives in their hands Friday, crossing and recrossing Main Street for about three hours while motorists either did or did not stop as they entered the crosswalks.

Schreffler and Burns were no ordinary strollers, but undercover pedestrians working with the Waynesboro Police Department to raise awareness that drivers must stop when a person enters a crosswalk. Sixteen motorists who failed that test got written warnings, but it will be different next time.

"The next time we do this, which will be in a couple of weeks, they'll get traffic tickets," Cpl. Kurt Wagaman said. The citation for failing to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, along with court costs, will set violators back about $108, he said.

"This is the first time we've done this in District 8," said Schreffler, the District 8 safety press officer for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Newspaper and other reports to the department, she said, pointed to a serious problem in Waynesboro, she said.

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"If we can get through the rest of the year with no more accidents, we'll have cut the number in half," Police Chief Mark King said. This year, in the town of about 10,000 residents, five pedestrians have been hit, he said.

In 2007, there were 10 accidents involving pedestrians, one of them fatal, and in 2006, seven people were hit, including another fatality, King said.

Those hit were young and old, male and female, and the accidents happened at different crossings and times of day, Schreffler said. No pattern emerged to explain why so many pedestrians were hit, she said.

What she called a "pedestrian sting operation" moved from crossings at the Alexander Hamilton Library, Dollar General and Waynesboro Hospital. Police stationed down the street east and west of the crossings pulled over offenders.

Schreffler and Burns, a risk management officer with PennDOT, were not walking blindly into traffic. They did as she advises students she talks to about pedestrian safety, making eye contact with drivers to make sure they have been seen.

"You can't assume the driver is going to stop," she said.

Nevertheless, some motorists drove right on by, particularly if Burns or Schreffler were entering from the far side of the road.

"Once a pedestrian is in the crosswalk, traffic is to stop in both directions," Schreffler said.

"Not paying attention ... Didn't notice them," Sgt. Michael Bock said of responses he got from the drivers they pulled over. "At least they were being honest."

"I thought I was part way through (the crosswalk) when they stepped onto the street," said one driver. She took the admonition of the police good-naturedly.

"I think it's a good thing because people do get hurt," the woman said.

"It's a two-way street," Mayor Richard Starliper said. While drivers have to be more aware of pedestrians and the law governing crosswalks, he said, pedestrians must also exercise good judgment in using them.

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