Chatham County looks to raise fines for drivers violating crosswalk laws

Chatham County Commissioners, concerned primarily with drivers not yielding as required to pedestrians on roads like Johnny Mercer Boulevard in the unincorporated county, appear to be taking a modest step to increase fines against motorists who violate the law. From Eric Curl’s Ordinance aims to hike driver fines in Chatham County in today’s Savannah Morning News:

Violators of the proposed ordinance can be fined up to $125 for the first offense, $250 for the second violation and $500 for a third. The fines are in addition to any penalties imposed by state law.

County Attorney Jon Hart said the county does not currently have any such penalties in place.

The fines were pushed for by Chatham County Commission Chairman Pete Liakakis as a way to address safety concerns on roads such as Johnny Mercer Boulevard on Wilmington Island.

Liakakis had said that drivers commonly fail to stop for walkers at crosswalks along the busy street. He asked county staff to research pedestrian laws in Salt Lake City, which has a similar ordinance in place.

I don’t get out onto Wilmington much, but I’ll trust Liakakis that there’s a problem. Good for the County for stepping up.

Of course, the article is already spawning the same sort of pedestrian-bashing that begins anytime such ordinances are suggested. State law dictates that drivers must stop for pedestrians that have left the curb and are in crosswalks. Drivers are also mandated to take all necessary precautions when pedestrians are in the roadway in areas without crosswalks.

Yes, of course, people try to cross streets or walk along roads at all sorts of dangerous spots.

But many of our streets and roads have no sidewalk or safe area for pedestrians to walk along the road or to cross it.

Even here in the heart of Savannah near my house, we have no cross walks from Anderson Street all the way to 37th Street, except for one badly installed one in front of SCAD’s Arnold Hall that goes at an angle, which reduces walkers’ field of vision and keeps them in the street longer. There are no crosswalks — none — between 37th Street and Victory Drive.

We need to work at changing our culture so that we design all of our streets so that pedestrians can cross them safely, and we need to create a culture that takes away some of drivers’ sense of entitlement.

By the way, I wrote recently about the routine pedestrian fatalities on Ogeechee Road.

And it’s also worth noting that some pretty extreme negative reactions from citizens forced the County to shelve a plan that would have enhanced pedestrian and bicycle safety on Johnny Mercer.

Part of the rejected plan to improve pedestrian safety on Johnny Mercer. Creation of the central trail would also have allowed pedestrians to cross the street two lanes at a time rather than try to race across all four (or more where there are turn lanes).