Dubbed Operation Best Foot Forward, crosswalk enforcement is part of a more comprehensive effort to educate drivers about Florida’s right-of-way laws and curb the pattern of aggressive behavior towards pedestrians. During the operation, plainclothes deputies and officers cross the street at marked crosswalks, giving drivers enough time to yield as Florida law requires. Uniformed officers are monitoring driver behavior. Those drivers who fail to stop are pulled over and may be issued a warning or a citation of at least $164 and three points on their license.
A proven theory is that sustained, high-visibility enforcement in conjunction with media attention will increase the public’s perception of the risk of being stopped by the police, thereby increasing compliance with traffic laws. Raising the perceived probability of citation is an essential element of an effective pedestrian enforcement program.
The video below explains Operation Best Foot Forward and offers a first-hand look at crosswalk enforcement.
Best Foot Forward law enforcement partners conduct 2 to 4 high-visibility enforcement operations per year.
Since the Best Foot Forward program launch in 2012:
- 504 details at crosswalk enforcement operations known as Operation Best Foot Forward
- 10,563 citations and warnings given to drivers who didn’t yield for pedestrians in marked crosswalks
The high-visibility, dual-enforcement action method that Best Foot Forward implements has proven to be effective nationally based on the “High Visibility Enforcement on Driver Compliance with Pedestrian Right-of-Way Laws” study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). Best Foot Forward works with law enforcement by county to conduct 2 to 4 enforcement actions per year. They are scheduled 6 months in advance, so the Best Foot Forward Community Outreach Coordinators can contact local homeowners’ associations, organizations and schools to schedule presentations to give ample warnings of the crosswalk crackdown in their neighborhood.
Best Foot Forward celebrates the fact that now 11 law enforcement agencies agreed to come together for a single purpose: to save the lives of pedestrians and bicyclists. Best Foot Forward’s mission is to increase safety for all road users by getting more drivers to stop for pedestrians in marked crosswalks, as Florida law requires.
Best Foot Forward follows guidelines from the Florida Department of Transportation, as well as the best practices of programs around the country that have seen proven success. Our structure is based on a 2013 NHTSA Study in Jacksonville and a 1998 FDOT/NHTSA study in St. Petersburg.
At the beginning of the year, the Best Foot Forward Steering Committees for each jurisdiction select a number of crosswalks to monitor and enforce throughout the year. Click here for an interactive Google map of the fiscal year 2021 Best Foot Forward crosswalks. Read more about how crosswalks are chosen.
Ahead of the program launch in 2012, Orlando Police Officers and Orange County Deputies were specially trained on high-visibility enforcement techniques, as well as driver yield laws. Officers and the research team walked through how to conduct a safe and effective enforcement operation in the field. Considerable emphasis was placed on using the standard crossing protocol, because it helps ensure citations will be upheld in court and, most importantly, ensures the safety of plainclothes officers serving as pedestrians. Much of this work involved conducting actual pedestrian right-of-way enforcement operations in the field.
Officers were given a card that showed the distance to the dilemma zone for roads based on the speed limit. This card also included the definition of a crosswalk, the requirements for motorists and pedestrians at marked uncontrolled crosswalks, and the definition of an unmarked crosswalk.
The Use of Decoy Pedestrians
Police officers in plain clothes cross as pedestrians. This feature of the program provides three important advantages:
- Officers can maximize the number of stops during an operation. If police have to wait for pedestrians to cross, there is down time because pedestrians sometimes arrive when there are no vehicles present, and because there are not as many pedestrians as vehicles at most locations.
- Officers cross in accordance with the crosswalk statutes to ensure that citations, when they are given, stand up in court.
- Officers do not cross if the vehicle is inside the dilemma zone. This ensures that they can stop all vehicles that fail to give right-of-way to pedestrians.
The Use of Warning Flyers
Warning flyers inform drivers of Florida’s driver yield law. They remind drivers not to pass vehicles stopped at crosswalks, to check to see if a crosswalk is clear before turning and asks for their cooperation. The use of warnings offers several advantages over citations when people violate a law:
- Warnings serve as an initial education phase.
- They allow a larger number of violators to be stopped because warnings take less time to issue than citations.
- They allow officers to use a short standardized script that points out how serious the problem is, tell the person they are only getting a warning this time and ask them to help make their community a safer place by sharing the information they have received with friends and neighbors.
- They also permit the officer to ask the driver to serve as a model by stopping the next time he/she sees a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Download the flyer here.
The Use of Large Sandwich Board Signs at the Flagging Areas
Sandwich board signs are set up at the flagging areas downstream from enforcement sites where violators are pulled over. Because pedestrian enforcement is not conducted as frequently as seatbelt or speed limit enforcement, these signs let drivers know that pedestrian right-of-way enforcement is being conducted. This component increases driver awareness and the visibility of the enforcement operations.
Use of 1-3 Month Warning Period
Since police agencies in Florida do not have a history of vigorous enforcement of crosswalk laws, it was strongly recommended that a “warning” phase of approximately one to three months precede the introduction of the first wave of enforcement, alerting drivers that failure to yield right of way to pedestrians at crosswalks would no longer be tolerated. Each of Best Foot Forward’s 3 counties agreed to a three-month warning period to sensitize residents before citations were issued.
Best Foot Forward works with local and national media to increase the awareness during Operation Best Foot Forward, or high-visibility enforcement operations. For media materials, including press releases and fact sheets, click here.
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