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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Recognizing that October is National Pedestrian Safety Month, the City of Springfield is highlighting their strategies and progress in the effort to make Springfield a more pedestrian friendly community.
On average, 70 pedestrians are struck on Springfield streets per year. Nationally, pedestrian-involved crashes have been on the rise since 2009, a trend that can be attributed to the growing use of smart phones and other distractions to drivers and walkers.
“The City is committed to increasing pedestrian safety and is using a comprehensive plan of action involving education, engineering and enforcement,” explains Traffic Safety Professional Mandy Buettgen-Quinn. “This three-pronged approach follows best practices to promote a culture of safety.”
The City began addressing pedestrian safety by building a foundation of education. Since launching in 2017, the City's SGF Yields pedestrian safety program has reached thousands of children and adults through classroom education, corporate safety communication and public outreach through various forms of media. The program focuses on educating walkers and drivers alike with the goal of increasing awareness of crosswalks and encouraging behavioral changes to promote safety.
The SGF Yields program includes a quarterly driver compliance study that measures the number of drivers who yield to pedestrians at various crosswalk locations throughout the city. The City is pleased to report a 44% average driver compliance rate in the third quarter of 2020, a rate that reflects a 19 percentage point improvement from the first quarter of 2019, when quarterly assessments began.
“Driver compliance assessments are a great way to track our progress and continue to educate drivers and pedestrians,” says Buettgen-Quinn. “We are thrilled by the progress we have measured so far, but our ultimate goal is to see 100% driver compliance. We’re hopeful we will get there through incorporating engineering and enforcement strategies to complement the encouraging progress we’ve made through education.”
Springfield Public Works continues to study and implement engineering approaches when making improvements to intersections and roadway segments where pedestrian safety is a concern. This includes the recent installation of new Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB) devices at three neighborhood crosswalk locations throughout the city. Other engineering strategies such as constructing raised crosswalks, curb extensions and other traffic-calming strategies are being incorporated into upcoming improvement projects to reduce the crossing distance for walkers and provide a safer and more comfortable walking experience.
The Springfield Police Department recently received a grant from the Missouri Department of Transportation that will fund crosswalk “Edu-forcement” exercises. Beginning in spring 2020, police officers will stage at crosswalks in plain clothing, stopping drivers who fail to give the right-of-way to pedestrians. Drivers will initially be provided educational materials and receive warnings. After the warning period, drivers may receive tickets for blatant violations.
“National studies show that this method can significantly drive up crosswalk compliance resulting in 70% of drivers yielding at crosswalks or more,” says Buettgen-Quinn.
Along with enforcement exercises, Springfield Public Works is also recommending changes to City code related to crosswalk use. At the Oct. 19 City Council meeting, proposed code amendments were brought forth that would require drivers to yield to people approaching or waiting within three feet of a crosswalk.
“Currently, our City code only requires drivers to yield to a person who is already in the crosswalk. This means pedestrians have to step into the street in order for drivers to stop,” explains Buettgen-Quinn. “The proposed code changes will allow pedestrians to remain on the sidewalk or ramp and out of harm’s way.”
For more information on the City’s SGF Yields pedestrian safety program, visit springfieldmo.gov/sgfyields.
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For more information, contact Melissa Haase, assistant director of Public Information & Civic Engagement for the City of Springfield, at 417-536-7648.