KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Drivers and pedestrians, beware: police in Kalamazoo are stepping up patrols this week in hopes of curbing the city’s high rate of crashes involving pedestrians.
The Office of Highway Safety Planning says Kalamazoo was among the cities with the highest number of pedestrian crashes during a five-year period. Between 2013 and 2017, 264 crashes involving pedestrians were reported in Kalamazoo, according to the OHSP.
From Sept. 5 to Sept. 11, the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office, Kalamazoo Township police and the Western Michigan University Department of Public Safety will be on the lookout for drivers who make illegal turns, fail to stop for a signal or sign before driving over a crosswalk, do not wait for pedestrians in a crosswalk, or block a roadway, causing traffic slowdowns.
All four agencies will also be watching for walkers who do not abide by traffic signals, do not use the sidewalk if it’s available, do not walk in a traffic-facing direction when on the shoulder of a road, and do not stop for drivers who have the right-of-way.
KDPS Sgt. David Moran says enforcement and educational campaigns, like Pedestrian Enforcement Week, can make a big difference in reducing crashes.
“Those laws were put in place to protect them so in turn by educating them we are protecting them,” Moran said.
Western Michigan Psychology Professor Ron Van Houten studies fatal traffic accidents and says awareness is crucial.
“The police will be getting the drivers to think about pedestrians to think maybe about bicyclists,” Van Houten said.
According to Van Houten, distracted driving is a factor in many of these crashes. Texting or using a smartphone while driving can be one of the biggest distractions.
“People are actually surfing the net while they’re driving,” Van Houten said. “Believe it or not we have data showing that’s actually happening.”
Kalamazoo is among four Michigan cities given federal grants to ramp up law enforcement aimed at limiting pedestrian crashes. Detroit, Warren and Lansing were also awarded funding by the U.S. Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The OHSP is coordinating the effort.
Federal officials say more than 100 pedestrians die each year in Michigan and September is an especially deadly month, with more than 1,000 crashes each year since 2013.
Pedestrian Enforcement Week runs through Sept. 11.