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Police hope crosswalk stings will emphasize auto-pedestrian safety

WEST VALLEY CITY — As West Valley police officer Mike Millett stepped off the curb Wednesday and started walking across the street — in a school crossing zone — he had to quickly take a step back so he wouldn't get hit by two vehicles.

"I actually had two cars coming at me. I actually had to step out of the way as two cars went around me. It's pretty scary," he said.

West Valley police conducted crosswalk safety operations Wednesday on a couple of streets in an effort to get drivers to pay more attention to the road, and particularly to pedestrians.

During a two-hour stint at 2800 West and 4100 South, where the crosswalk is located midblock and not at an intersection, officers dressed in regular clothes repeatedly crossed the street to see which motorists would yield the right of way to them like they're supposed to, and which ones would cut them off — or in some cases, nearly hit them.

Millett said the results were "pretty horrible."

"It was crazy. We had 32 violators in two hours. Even in a school crosswalk with crossing guards out there and cones in the road and yellow lights flashing," he said. "They don't even see us. They don't see the crosswalk. They don't see the painted lines, they didn't see the lights or the signs. Unfortunately our drivers aren't even paying attention."

Many of the drivers pulled over Wednesday told police they were busy trying to get to work.

"They're in a hurry. They're not giving themselves time to get there, unfortunately," Millett said.

A similar operation was conducted two hours later at the much busier intersection of 3500 South and Redwood Road where there are crossing lights and traffic signals. It resulted in only a handful of violators.

But in light of recent auto-pedestrian tragedies across the state, Millett said his office plans to conduct several crosswalk enforcement operations in the coming weeks.

Tuesday night, a 64-year-old woman was hit and killed while trying to cross Main Street near 1500 North in Bountiful. The accident marked the fifth fatal auto-pedestrian accident in Utah in 2015.

"Which is way too many already," Millett said.

According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, 903 pedestrians were hit by motor vehicles in Utah during 2013. The woman killed in Wednesday's accident was not using a crosswalk.

Drivers pulled over Wednesday in West Valley City were given either a warning or a citation.

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