Maryland Cops Show How Pedestrian Safety Enforcement Should Be Done

So many times, “pedestrian stings” by law enforcement agencies end up just handing out a lot of tickets for jaywalking.

In a few hours at a single crosswalk, Montgomery County police cited 72 drivers for failure to yield to pedestrians. Image: Mymcpnews.com

But police in Montgomery County, Maryland, recently did pedestrian safety enforcement the right way: rather than target the victims of traffic violence, they targeted the only party capable of inflicting injury and death — drivers. Ben Ross at Greater Greater Washington reports that law enforcement officials were surprised by the number of infractions they saw:

So many drivers don’t yield to pedestrians that catching them is “like shooting fish in a barrel,” a surprised Montgomery County police officer remarked Wednesday. The police ticketed 72 violators in 2½ hours—one every two minutes—at a single crosswalk on Veirs Mill Road.

Capt. Thomas Didone, head of the police traffic enforcement division, explained the reasoning behind the “sting” to the Patch. “Officers would typically attempt to enforce that kind of law by driving around a high-traffic area and looking for drivers not following the rules,” he said. “That’s not very efficient.”

Ross points out that this campaign had another important benefit — it got police officers out of squad cars and on their feet:

Police who drive all day don’t understand the reality of walking on the county’s roadways. When you get out of the squad car and join the thousands who cross Veirs Mill every day (it’s among the county’s busiest bus corridors), you suddenly learn that “it’s kind of scary.”

Foot patrols succeeded in calming downtown Silver Spring after a series of brawls in 2010. But they ended once the brawls went away. Street fighting is hardly Montgomery County’s biggest law enforcement problem. Driver violations of pedestrian rights are ubiquitous, and they do far more harm. There are as many pedestrian deaths per year in the county as homicides.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Urban Milwaukee explains how Wisconsin Republicans have successfully torpedoed rail projects for decades. Human Transit delves into the topic of using development fees to fund transit investment. And Bike Portland reports that local Walgreens stores are, for some reason, refusing drive-thru service to cyclists.