Help Wanted: Be a Crossing Guard, Be a Hero

Picture this: A 6-year old little boy, Johnny, lives just ten minutes away from his elementary school. Today is his special day; it’s Johnny’s turn to present to his class for show-and-tell. Little Johnny spent all night last night deciding what to bring. Should he bring his signed basketball from the Orlando Magic game? Or should he bring his ant farm (that is so cool and has like, 80 ants in it!)? By morning, he still could not decide. As his dad left for work, with a kiss to the head and a wave goodbye, he told Johnny how excited he was to come home from work and hear all about Johnny’s show-and-tell and which prized possession he finally decided on

Johnny, with his overstuffed backpack and prized possession in hand began his walk to school. The morning school traffic was hectic. Sometimes, it made Johnny a little nervous. But, guess what? Because of school crossing guards, Johnny isn’t scared to walk to school. He knows he’ll be safe crossing the street.

That night, Johnny was able to tell his dad all about his show-and-tell day at school, about how his classmates loved his signed basketball, and how glad he was that his dad took him to the Orlando Magic game last week. Johnny is safe and sound walking to-and-from school because of Orange County’s and Orlando’s Crossing Guard superheroes. Johnny and his dad can go back to many more basketball games, and Johnny can keep boasting about his prized basketball.


The Best Foot Forward Coalition includes Orange County Public Schools and works to make sure all kids make it to and from school safely, just like Johnny. Right now, there is a need for additional crossing guards in both Orlando and Orange County. That means, you can be the hero of this story. Orange County Sheriff’s Office and Orlando Police Department are both hiring School Crossing Guards. The paid, part-time positions currently have applications open. Follow the links below to apply and be a superhero for our little pedestrians!

Orlando Police Department Application: https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/orlando/jobs/1407758-0/crossing-guard-temporary

Orange County Sheriff’s Office Application: https://www.ocso.com/Careers/Employment-Information/School-Crossing-Guard

Operation Best Foot Forward Works to Keep Pedestrians and Drivers Safe

7 crosswalks. More than 40 law enforcement officers. 62 traffic stops. 50 citations given. Countless lives saved

This was the result of the most recent Operation Best Foot Forward in Orange County and Orlando. Operation BFF is a high-visibility enforcement action, where the Best Foot Forward coalition targets a number of marked crosswalks in order to remind drivers to stop for pedestrians crossing the street, as Florida law requires.

Here are pictures from the March 20 Operation BFF.

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It’s a big operation. Before the traffic tickets start flying, the BFF coalition comes together. These meetings include planners and engineers at the city, county and regional level, as well as officers, deputies and school officials who make recommendations for crosswalks that need enforcement. But it’s not that easy. Often our team will go out into the neighborhoods and meet with residents to hear their concerns and help educate them on Florida laws. Next our data collectors go out an observe all the potential crosswalks. They have a strict set of criteria to decide if a crosswalk is enforceable. Drivers must be able to see the pedestrian and have enough distance to safely stop based on the speed of the road. Deputies must have a safe place to pull drivers over and issue citations. Many other factors come into play, but once the group decides on the crosswalks and the date—they hit the streets.

Law enforcement have a “decoy” or plainclothes deputy, or officer walk across the street in the crosswalk. If drivers don’t stop like they should, they get a $164 reminder. One of the benefits of Operation BFF is that it can show a need for engineering changes. One crosswalk was chosen this time because it was recently moved. Testing was needed to see if the engineering improvements are working.

A big part of enforcement operations is getting the media to help spread the word. ultimate goal is awareness—getting more drivers to stop for people in crosswalks and media coverage certainly furthers that mission.

Crosswalks Enforced on March 20 Operation BFF

Alafaya Dr. & University Blvd.

Lancaster Rd. & Voltaire Dr.

Pine Hills Rd. & midblock crossing near Alhambra Dr.

Pine Hills Rd. & El Trio Way

Westwood Blvd. & midblock near I-Drive

Central Blvd. & Rosearden Dr.

70 W. Gore St.

 

Operation BFF a Social Success

This morning dozens of local police officers and sheriff’s deputies hit the streets for the year’s first Operation Best Foot Forward. It’s just one part of BFF’s mission to make the streets of Central Florida safer for both drivers and walkers. One of the goals of a high-visibility enforcement, or Crosswalk Crackdown, is to educate drivers about Florida law– you have to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Thanks to all our parters in the BFF Coalition and the media for spreading the word!

During Operation BFF, law enforcement works in small teams. A plainclothes deputy, or “decoy”, walks across a marked crosswalk. He checks to see which drivers don’t stop like Florida law requires, then he radios to his uniformed partners who pull drivers over and hand out $164 citations.

Best Foot Forward works with city planners, engineers and law enforcement to decide which crosswalks need an enforcement action. Then our team of data collectors scouts out potential locations. They track driver yield rates, make sure it’s safe for the decoy, and there’s a safe place to pull drivers over. This time, we were at lots of crosswalks near schools, or a local college.

 

Because our partners helped spread the word, we’re pretty sure more drivers paid attention and stopped for pedestrians in marked crosswalks today… at least we hope so.

Zombie Traffic Lights: A New Pedestrian Safety Tech that Doesn’t Bite

Officials in Israel are working to protect people who are so engrossed in their phones, that they’re “unknowingly” stepping out into traffic.

Sound a bit extreme? We thought so too. But I guess this is a big problem in Tel Aviv. So we say, “Power to you, Israeli officials! Thanks for the new invention we can soon bring to America.”

There’s even a name for people who are so absorbed in their screens, they ignore their surroundings: “smartphone zombies.” (it’s a real thing, check Wikipedia)

Like distracted driving, distracted walking takes your focus off the most important task: safely getting where you’re going. In response to this uniquely twenty-first century concern, Tel Aviv’s engineering department is testing a new technology aimed at stopping these distracted pedestrians in their tracks, The Times of Israel reports.

Dubbed a “zombie stop light,” it’s an LED light strip installed in the sidewalk, that flashes the color of the upcoming stoplight: red and green. The idea is, people literally don’t have to look up from their Facebook feeds before walking into traffic (or stopping for the light).

Anyone else feel a little uneasy about this? I mean, if I’m walking along, I would like for other people to be watching where they’re going… you know… so they don’t run smack into me?! (or a dog, or one of those cute outdoor restaurant tables, spilling wine all over the couple on their first date)

Though only in the trial stage in Tel Aviv, similar traffic devices can be found on crosswalks in Europe, China, and Australia. According to The Washington Post, the Dutch town of Bodergraven-Reeuwijk piloted these pedestrian stop lights in 2017.

Some safety groups fought against this new technology, arguing that these devices only encouraged distracted walking. Officials responded by defending the technology, saying, “As a government, we probably can’t reverse this trend, but we can anticipate problems.”

All right, all right. I guess you have a point, government officials.

Though zombie traffic lights have yet to find their way to the U.S., distracted walking’s impact on pedestrian safety is certainly a growing concern. The Governors Highway Safety Association reports that the national number of pedestrian fatalities is at its highest in decades, and distracted driving and walking were both listed as potential factors contributing to this number.

Perhaps soon we’ll be able to put our Best Foot Forward, right across zombie traffic lights along Park Avenue in Winter Park, or down I-Drive.

Osceola celebrates residents at Community Appreciation Day

On a regular day, Osceola County Sheriff’s Office deputies are usually the ones in charge of toning down an unruly crowd, but don’t let them fool you: when it comes to celebrating their residents, this group knows how to throw a party. For the second year in a row, Best Foot Forward joined OCSO for family fun, food and festivities at their annual Community Appreciation Day event.

The OCSO grounds were packed with vendors and organizations from all across Osceola County, including BFF partners from the City of Kissimmee and Kissimmee Police Department. OCSO Sheriff Russ Gibson and Kissimmee Mayor Jose Alvarez were there for all of the action, taking a quick moment to pause for a smile with our popular BFF “i Yield 4 Peds” magnets while chatting about the next enforcement action (heads up – it’s planned for the end of March).

BFF representatives talked to residents about the BFF program, pedestrian safety and areas in their neighborhood that they are concerned about. That information will be shared with partners during the monthly Steering Committee meetings. Kids who came by the table scored comic books, stickers and bookmarks if they shared their street smarts.

Our kid’s wheel caught the eye of Positively Osceola’s Cole Harvey, who stopped by to give it a go. The rules? Spin the wheel and answer a safety question for a prize. Cole knew that you have to stop for people crossing the street in marked crosswalks but learned that failing to do so will hurt your wallet: a $166 citation in Osceola and three points on your driver’s license. You can watch his Facebook Live video about it here.

From start to finish, there wasn’t a dull moment with this group. Luckily, those who filled up on hot dogs and candy were able to burn a few extra calories thanks to an impromptu end-of-event dance party – the perfect way to end an eventful day. Thank you to our partners at OCSO for allowing us to join and celebrate the wonderful residents of Osceola.

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