As I was walking home last night, I saw a blurb on the news crawl on the facade of the Columbus Dispatch building about Columbus police cracking down on downtown area jaywalkers. Oh, great, I thought: another questionable allocation of police resources to address a negligible problem when more pressing issues need attention. It reminded me of an incident that occurred many years ago, in which a lawyer hot-footed it into our firm to avoid being ticketed for jaywalking by a policeman.
The underlying problem is the recent time change, which means that Columbus is plunged into darkness in the middle of the evening rush hour. The statistics show that deaths from car-pedestrian collisions increase during the fall, so there is a real problem to be addressed. And, according to the Dispatch report, the enforcement effort is both even-handed — police are looking for jaywalkers and for drivers who make illegal turns or fail to yield to pedestrians who have the right of way — and is designed to focus on reminding people of their legal obligations, by having yellow-jacketed motorcycle cops stationed at key downtown intersections to talk to pedestrians and look for drivers who don’t yield, and representatives of city organizations handing out leaflets about the traffic laws near bus stops.
As I’ve noted recently, if drivers are inattentive, being a pedestrian can be very dangerous. And if Columbus police are going to target drivers who fail to yield, it’s only fair to cite pedestrians who fail to comply with traffic laws, too. We’re all sharing the streets and crosswalks of downtown Columbus together. (And while we’re at it, looking for cyclists who ignore the rules of the road would be a good idea, too.)
I always cross at crosswalks, anyway, and while I like to make good time on my daily journey to and from work I’ll gladly restrain myself from crossing too early in exchange for police efforts to remind drivers about keeping an eye out for the pedestrians among us.