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How can my community improve yield-to-pedestrian compliance?

Drivers' failure to yield to pedestrians is a widespread problem that can be attributed to lack of knowledge, need for improved training programs, and inadequate mechanisms of accountability. Education programs backed up with vigorous enforcement measures often bring improvement.

Programs in states and cities that have improved yield-to-pedestrian compliance vary widely but have some elements in common:

  • Institutional and political support for the program
  • Pedestrians (especially the most vulnerable — children and seniors) are taught to walk safely
  • Motorists are taught to expect pedestrians on the roadway and know that they must yield to them
  • Publicity measures remind motorists of their responsibility for pedestrian safety
  • Yield-to-pedestrian ordinances are enforced consistently

An example from a San Jose, California, education program to encourage yield-to-pedestrian compliance.

Enforcement is perhaps the most critical element of any program. For example, New Jersey's Division of Highway Traffic Safety provides funding for local police to increase enforcement in order to change driver behavior. During targeted police patrols at high pedestrian-crash locations, warnings and summonses are issued to motorists and pedestrians whose actions put pedestrians at risk. Yield-to-pedestrian laws are emphasized; failure to yield carries a $100 fine and a two-point license penalty. Similarly, a strong enforcement program helped reduce pedestrian crashes at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

Concerned citizens can lay the foundation for improved yield-to-pedestrian compliance with these steps:

(1) Create a list of the relevant rules of the road for the state and community. (This information may be found on the state's department of transportation Web site, or through the state or local bicycle/pedestrian coordinator.) Include:

  • Specific state laws and local ordinances related to yield-to-pedestrians;
  • Special status and rights of pedestrians who are visually impaired (sometimes referred to as "white cane" laws);
  • The definition of a crosswalk (including the legal status of T-intersections);
  • Any due care provisions in the state code.

(2) Learn about other cities that have successfully increased yield-to-pedestrian compliance and note which educational programs could serve as models.

(3) Engage with local officials, magistrates, police and traffic officers to obtain a commitment to training and enforcement. Work with them to educate drivers through targeted enforcement at select locations; arrange media coverage.

Resources and more information

Case study on improving yield-to-pedestrian compliance at UMass ("Cross Safely, Drive Safely"): http://www.walkinginfo.org/library/details.cfm?id=3958

Case study on the N.J. Governor's Pedestrian Safety Initiative: http://www.walkinginfo.org/library/details.cfm?id=3959

San Jose, Calif., Street Smarts Campaign (education): http://www.getstreetsmarts.org/

List of state bicycle and pedestrian coordinators: http://www.walkinginfo.org/assistance/contacts.cfm