Strasburg police keep eye on pedestrian crossings

Drivers who stop for pedestrian crossings around Strasburg might get a little positive reinforcement from police.

The Strasburg Police Department has started its yearly exercise of what Chief Tim Sutherly calls the “carrot before the stick” – handing out $5 gift certificates to yielding drivers before writing up traffic tickets for violations later on. This year, the certificates are for the Queen Street Diner.

Officers watch as Teresa Shillingburg, administrative assistant, waits at the edge of crosswalks around town to cross. When cars stop to let her by, they will come from visually obscured areas and hand out the gift certificates.

The certificates have a mini fact sheet on the frequency and impact of pedestrian traffic incidents, stating that an average of 5,000 pedestrians are killed and 85,000 pedestrians are injured annually.

Shillingburg said she’s had a few close calls during the exercise but has noticed that women drivers tend to stop to let her cross more frequently than men.

Drivers are to yield right of way to pedestrians at crosswalks, and Sutherly said that officers can end up writing eight to 10 tickets per hour for violating that right of way.

“It’s amazing how many people either don’t know the law or just ignore it,” he said.

Pedestrians crossing the street when not at a crosswalk don’t have the right of way and must yield to drivers. Sutherly said both the certificates and the tickets serve as a reminder for drivers on busy roads in town. From his office window, he said he watches pedestrians on King Street wait to cross as cars continue to cross their path.

“That’s the point of this, is just to continue educating people as much as we can,” he said. “We don’t necessarily want to give tickets, but if that’s the only way to get our message across, then…”

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com