Police step up efforts to increase pedestrian safety - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Undercover Operation: Police step up efforts to increase pedestrian safety


Eau Claire (WQOW) - An undercover operation in Eau Claire puts drivers on notice. 

This week, police set out to warn drivers to not only learn the law about pedestrians, but more importantly follow it.   "We want to do what we can do to hopefully prevent what could be a tragedy," says Sgt. Travis Quella, Eau Claire Police Department.

Police are taking an extra step to protect pedestrians.  "What we want to do is let the public know that if a pedestrian is in the crosswalk and you can stop, you do have to stop," says Quella.

State law requires drivers to yield the right of way to people walking or biking within a crosswalk. This week, police went undercover at four intersections in downtown Eau Claire.

"We had three officers that were serving as the stop vehicles and the officer in plain clothes was going across the crosswalk.  We, unfortunately, never had to wait more than one or two minutes for a violation to take place and these were not borderline infractions," says Quella.

Over the course of two days, officers issued 73 warnings and admit there could have been more.  "What we found often times, were that the motorists did see the pedestrians, but didn't think they had to stop.  It was very common for motorists to think that they were OK to go through the crosswalk if the pedestrian, let's say, was on the other side of the center line... or several motorists thought, I'm OK if I'm 10 or 15 feet away from the pedestrian."

Pedestrians say safety is always a concern, but a recent change downtown has some people worried even more about safety.  "It has been a little hectic since they switched to two-way traffic," says Daniel Goelzer, a downtown business owner.  "People have to be a little more cautious until we get used to it.  The pedestrians are feeling a little uncomfortable because they have to look both ways now."

Officers want to remind pedestrians to be cautious as well.  "You have a responsibility as a pedestrian not to suddenly make your way into a roadway.  We were not dealing with that the last couple of days.  Each and every one of these cases was the officer plainly visible and giving the driver's ample time to stop."

The fine for failing to yield to a pedestrian is around $230.

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