Police to get tough on pedestrians

By Robert Soares

November 11, 2012 - 9:06 am
Mariciopa Police Chief Steve Stahl, standing right, mingles with crowd during Saturday's Coffee with the Chief. Robert Soares photo

Jaywalkers beware. Maricopa police are watching.

“We are going to start citing for jaywalking” to reduce pedestrian fatalities, Chief Steve Stahl told Saturday’s gathering during Coffee with the Chief.

Among a group of more than 30 people including the chief’s wife and Sgt. Hal Koozer, traffic laws were at the center of discussion during this month’s open forum.

Stahl said the national pedestrian death rate is higher than ever and urged residents to use crosswalks, stressing their importance in keeping pedestrians safe.

“When I see mothers with strollers not using the crosswalk, somebody needs to tell them, ‘Do you have any respect for your child?’” Stahl said.

There are plenty of crosswalks in Maricopa, they are there for a reason and should be used, he said.

One resident expressed her concern.

“In the crosswalk, you’re almost in a kill zone.” said resident Robyn Olney.

In Arizona people aren’t looking for pedestrians because pedestrians are not as common as they are in other places, Olney said citing Seattle and Portland, Ore.

Stahl said there have been few accidents involving pedestrians in crosswalks, but if a resident is worried about being in a crosswalk, he or she should wait at the curb before stepping in.

The chief then took the discussion toward his concerns with tailgating.

“One of the key things that I’ve seen on John Wayne Parkway that is causing a lot of collisions, is following too close,” Stahl said.

Stahl said the travel distance at 35 mph to 45 mph would be at least two car lengths. He asked the group, “Who could honestly say that that’s the rule that they follow?”

Two residents raised their hands.

Failing to keep the appropriate distance can result in collisions, Stahl said. Studies show that from the point something happens to the point the average person reacts to what’s happening is .75 seconds, he said.

“It’s less than one second, but in .75 seconds at 35-45 mph, you have traveled five car lengths.” Stahl said.

Quiet releases of “Wow” and “Oh my” broke out around the room.

“It’s pretty scary, and you haven’t even touched the brakes yet.” Stahl said.

Stahl said being impaired with alcohol or drugs or being tired doubles the reaction time.

“The most common driving infraction of driving under the influence is prescription drugs,” he said.

Stahl said John Wayne Parkway has many businesses along the road and that calls for more crosswalks and traffic control devices. This welcomes the jaywalkers and bicyclists who don’t necessarily follow the rules he said, so it is imperative to pay attention.

“When you’re driving, it’s definitely a multitask event,” he said. “You’re looking at your speedometer, you’re looking ahead, way ahead – all these things you’re supposed to be doing and then something happens in front of you that you have to react to.”

Resident Marah Brown said she wanted to know if there are any laws about riding bicycles on the sidewalk.

Stahl said sidewalks are defined as a pedestrian walkway and are not designed for bicycles but understood the inconveniences being a bicycle rider in Arizona can bring.

“I understand greatly that Arizona isn’t quite designed the way it possibly should be for bicycle traffic,” he said. “However if you’re disruptive to the pedestrians, then we’re going to come up and talk to you about it.”

Stahl said bicycle riders should be visible, with a headlight and back reflector on the bike.

“You think motorcycles are hard to see, try seeing a bicycle at night in the city of Maricopa.”

The chief said he wants bicyclists to advertise their presence on the road and embrace the potential Maricopa has to be a great place for bike riding.

Saturday was the first time Coffee with the Chief was held at Honeycutt Coffee.

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