Regional police crack down on jaywalking

(Photo by Cristina Rucchetta)

(Photo by Cristina Rucchetta)

In the lives of many Laurier students, jaywalking has become something of a daily routine. However, Waterloo Regional Police officers see it as a risky act and a ticketable traffic violation — a $50 traffic ticket to be exact.

As part of a 2013 Traffic Enforcement and Road Safety Education Plan, the Waterloo Regional Police Services (WRPS) are conducting an initiative during the month of March that focuses on road safety for pedestrians.

This month’s initiative used the results of a study by the WRPS, which looked at the collision patterns at busy intersections. Police found that the biggest contributors to traffic collisions were pedestrians not using crosswalks, disobeying traffic signals and drivers failing to yield to pedestrians.

Waterloo Regional Police discussed the results in a media release issued last month. Staff Sergeant Scott Diefenbaker explained that the community would see an “enhanced police presence at intersections” during the month of March.

This would also include areas with a “higher frequency of pedestrian-related incidents.”

Basically, this means that Waterloo police are “cracking down” on jaywalkers and traffic violators.

“There’s always been jaywalking,” said Chris Hancocks, operations manager for Laurier Special Constable Services. “Always.”

Hancocks, who has been working with Special Constables for the past 16 years, has noticed that jaywalking becomes more common when there are high levels of construction.

This now includes King St., University Ave., and respective side streets. However, Hancock fears that students are not taking the idea of jaywalking as seriously as they should, referencing to the number of collision incidences involving a pedestrian as evidence of this. Last weekend, a car struck a 22-year-old Waterloo woman who was jaywalking at night. She is now facing life-threatening injuries at a Hamilton hospital.

“[Jaywalking] puts not only the students in danger but also the motorists,” Hancocks said. “We’re really just trying to educate the students to use the crosswalks and lights as they are supposed to be used.”

A jaywalking ticket, according to Hancocks, is presumably meant to be an educative warning for the perpetrator, teaching them the importance of following traffic laws. He expressed the Special Constable’s support in the Waterloo police’s road safety initiative.

“[Jaywalking] is like playing chicken with a 400-pound vehicle,” Hancocks emphasized. “Not everyone goes the speed limit, so that’s a big piece of metal hurdling at you.”

However, in response to the amount of tickets being handed out to jaywalkers, some pedestrians feel that a $50 fine is unnecessary for something that may be unavoidable.

“I live on Noecker [Street] and in order to get to campus I have to cross King [St] at the lights by Marshall,” explained Liz Kararincic, a fourth-year student at Wilfrid Laurier University.

“Most of the time I am unable to get to that light without jaywalking because of the construction. I either have to walk on the road to avoid the traffic on King or I need to cross the street before the light.”

“This is extremely annoying and unsafe,” she added.

Along with that, some Laurier students expressed their concern through Twitter. One tweet acknowledged that they jaywalk because crosswalks and intersections are too “out of the way” for their route.

“Rather than walking the extra 30 feet to the cross walk or intersection, you figure you can run across,” Hancocks admitted when considering students’ logic. “But you know that’s never a good idea. That extra 30 feet can save you a month in the hospital.”

The debate over the issue of jaywalking is one that will likely never be resolved. However, in Waterloo, officers are doing everything they can to prevent jaywalking and reduce the number of “preventable incidents.”

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