But it’s not about the tickets: it’s about community engagement
On November 8, Osceola County deputies (OCSO) and Kissimmee police (KPD) hit the streets looking for drivers who refused to stop for pedestrians legally crossing the street in a crosswalk. They enforced six different crosswalks. In just three and a half hours during Operation Best Foot Forward, they stopped 175 drivers and wrote 116 citations and warnings for failure to obey Florida’s driver yield law (drivers are required to yield or stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk).
ICYMI: Here’s how Operation BFF works
A law enforcement team sets up at a crosswalk (there are FDOT standards for this type of thing… BFF partners always follow them). A ‘decoy’ or plainclothes officer will walk across the street using the crosswalk, making sure to give drivers enough time to stop, as Florida law requires. If drivers don’t stop—the uniformed crew located a block down the road pulls them over and issues a citation or warning. A citation for failing to yield to a pedestrian will cost you $166 and three points on your license.
Operation BFF isn’t about the tickets, it’s about the result of the tickets
Is it good to give a driver a ticket if he or she breaks the law and puts people in dangers? Sure it is. And we hope that drivers do two things afterward: 1) change their behavior and yield to pedestrians in crosswalks 2) tell their friends and family about their experience, thus spreading awareness of Florida’s driver yield law and the message of pedestrian safety. That’s the real win—when a one-time ticket turns into a long-term behavior change to make the streets safer.
Media acts as a megaphone
In addition to the direct awareness OCSO and KPD spread with drivers, BFF works to get local media coverage for each enforcement operation. Television, print, online and social media can act like a megaphone to blast out the message of pedestrian safety to drivers all across Central Florida. BFF is pleased that media reached more than 880,000 people on November 7 and 8 with 34 news stories airing across six TV stations, one radio station and three different news websites during that time. Additionally, our social media efforts (along with the tags, shares and engagement from all our partners) resulted in nearly 59,000 people seeing the message that drivers must yield to people in crosswalks. This is how behavior change happens.
The scene on November 8
About 30 minutes into the start of Operation BFF, OCSO had six cars lined up just off Buenaventura Blvd. at Briarwood Dr. While the road is notorious for drivers speeding, on this day, even the large, orange “Crosswalk Law Enforcement Operation” didn’t slow drivers down. There are five different schools and a large park within just a few blocks of this crosswalk. BFF initially tracked just 11 percent of drivers yielding to people using the crosswalk. The hope is that large, highly visible enforcement actions will raise awareness, causing drivers to slow down and watch out for people crossing.
Meanwhile, over in Kissimmee, where the Shingle Creek Trail crosses Hoagland Blvd., it was much the same scene. This area can be especially dangerous for people out walking, jogging or bicycling on the trail, because BFF data shows drivers rarely stop for them. KPD chose to enforce this crosswalk because, with Daylight Saving Time ending and the sun setting earlier, it can be harder to see people out on the trail at dusk. KPD wanted to reach as many drivers as possible, to educate them about the need to watch out for people crossing the road.
BFF was excited to welcome St. Cloud Mayor Nathan Blackwell and Melissa Vayaz-Moreno with the City of Kissimmee to see our enforcement actions first-hand.
As the day went on, the law enforcement teams moved from crosswalk to crosswalk with similar results. Lots of drivers were going too fast, and either not paying attention, or just not yielding to the decoy trying to legally cross the street.
Best Foot Forward wants to make dangerous streets safer
BFF coalition partners carefully choose which crosswalks to enforce. The steering committee, which includes city and county engineers and planners, people from the transportation and streets departments and law enforcement take into account known high-crash corridors, proximity to schools, community centers, LYNX bus stops and trail crossings. They also look at crosswalks with needed or planned engineering changes.
In this case, KPD chose Donegan and Carroll, because the city just completed a four-lane widening project. Improvements include wider sidewalks, new signage and a pedestrian refuge island. Elementary and middle school children use this crosswalk to get to and from school.
The crosswalk at Thacker and Ernest is adjacent to Osceola High School, but drivers are often caught going faster than the posted 30 mph speed limit.
If it takes dozens and dozens of tickets in order for children to safety cross the street and get to school, then OCSO, KPD and BFF are happy to comply. But the ultimate win for us would be to write zero tickets, which would indicate that all drivers are obeying the law.