By Gretchen Toy
KITTANNING, Pa. – Kittanning Police Chief Ed Cassesse said Friday that the Police Department has been putting serious effort into the reduction of pedestrian injuries and fatalities.
According to a June 9 report in the Leader Times, the Kittanning Police Department has joined in a PennDOT Safety Awareness and Enforcement campaign. As part of the campaign, signs that display highly reflective pedestrian crossing symbols have been placed near the crosswalks around town. Fines for crosswalk violations can be $50 or more and motorists can be assessed points on their driving records.
“The law states that people must yield to pedestrians at marked crosswalks, but it really is one of the biggest public safety issues here in Kittanning,” Cassesse said. “Some motorists don’t stop, and we have even had one local fatality due to the problem.”
Tom Wylie, a local business owner, has been dealing with the problem every day. Wylie owns Creative Dreams and Country Gifts, a business located on Market Street in Kittanning.
“The crosswalk outside of my store is so dangerous, because it is right in the center of town,” Wylie said. “You just can’t trust that drivers are going to stop for you.”
Every morning, Wylie has to use the crosswalk on Market Street to cross the street to open his business.
“This morning they stopped for me, but that usually doesn’t happen,” Wylie said. “75 percent of drivers do not stop for pedestrians who are trying to use that crosswalk.”
Wylie has observed many incidents where vehicles have not stopped for pedestrians.
“One day when I was using the crosswalk on Market Street, along with a few other people, a lady just flew right in front of us in her vehicle,” Wylie said. “She almost hit us, but all she chose to say to us were a few choice words out her car window.”
The Kittanning Police Department has been trying to enforce the law very strictly in order to increase pedestrian safety in the town.
“At least 100 people a day use the crosswalk on Market Street,” Cassesse said. “I can monitor all of the crosswalks on television screens in my office. If I see a violator, I radio to my men on the streets.”
According to Cassesse, many citations have been given to drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians.
“We have been citing roughly 15 violators a month,” Cassesse said. “We make sure that the crosswalks on Market Street are monitored especially well during the lunch hour.”
Many efforts have been made to improve the safety of pedestrians in Kittanning.
“Every year, a safety monitor comes from PennDOT to make sure our officers are correctly enforcing the law,” Cassesse said. “PennDOT has also provided us with the reflective signs for the crosswalks, but it is our job to enforce the law.”
PennDOT District 10 safety press officer Shawn Houck has also been involved in improving pedestrian safety.
“Since we have distributed the reflective signs, which we call ‘channelization devices,’ we have seen much better motorist compliance,” Houck said. “Although we have had a lot of them hit or stolen, I feel it’s much better to have the devices hit, rather than pedestrians.”
Houck said that he is very thankful for the teamwork that has been involved.
“The devices are only one component of many,” Houck said. “The police departments have not only enforced the law, but they’ve also educated the public about pedestrian safety.”
Houck thinks that the Safety Awareness and Enforcement campaign has proven to be very successful.
“We have had such great success because everyone has been working together,” Houck said. “There are 19 different communities that have joined the campaign.”
AAA has also joined in the efforts to maintain a safe environment for pedestrians.
“Each year AAA gives us a reward if there are no pedestrians injured by moving vehicles,” Cassesse said. “I am glad to say that we have not had any of these types of injuries in Kittanning this year.”