MILLCREEK — It was back to school for most students in Salt Lake County on Monday.
And Unified police officers were out to make sure students walking to school got there safely.
The Unified Police Department, in conjunction with the Utah Highway Safety Office, conducted crosswalk safety enforcement at nearly all of the schools in their jurisdiction on Monday.
- A Unified police officer monitors an area on 1300 East near Millcreek Elementary School in Millcreek on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. The officer patrolled the area briefly Monday morning as students were arriving for their first day of school. Twice, within a minute of pulling out his radar gun, he pulled a motorist over. Colter Peterson
- Two children cross 3745 South on their way to Millcreek Elementary School in Millcreek on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. Colter Peterson
- Newell Evans, left, mans a crosswalk as a woman and two children cross 1300 East near Millcreek Elementary School in Millcreek on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. Colter Peterson
- A Unified police officer talks with crossing guard Newell Evans, left, on 1300 East near Millcreek Elementary School in Millcreek on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. The officer patrolled the area briefly Monday morning as students were arriving for their first day of school. Twice, within a minute of pulling out his radar gun, the officer pulled a motorist over. Colter Peterson
“The idea is to speak with drivers, remind them that school has started and they’ll start seeing more pedestrians out on the roadway, and educate them on the laws,” said traffic officer Zack Young.
Young said he typically hears at the beginning of each school year complaints from crossing guards who see all sorts of egregious behavior from drivers.
“We have everything from just speeding and not even noticing it’s a school zone,” said Young, who typically patrols in the Kearns area. “We also have people who want to argue with the crossing guard and actually drive around the crossing guard while the stop sign is up.”
Young said there have even been instances when a motorist will rev their engine until the crossing guard moves.
Newell Evans is a crossing guard for Millcreek Elementary School and helps students get across busy 1300 East. He has experienced firsthand the bad behaviors of some motorists, including speeding, cursing at him for stopping traffic, and driving in the turning lane.
“They’ll use that middle lane as a passing lane when there is a line of cars stopped,” he said.
A federal grant given to the Utah Highway Safety Office is paying for the overtime shifts. Spokesman Jason Mettmann said his office is paying for Unified police to have 36 overtime shifts for the next two weeks for crosswalk enforcement.
Statewide, Mettmann said the Utah Highway Safety Offices funds 750 shifts each year.
As of Monday, there had been 19 fatal auto-pedestrian accidents in Utah during 2019. In 2018 there were 37, and in 2017 there were 43, he said.
According to statewide statistics, there are spikes in auto-pedestrian accidents between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., and between 3 .p.m. and 6 p.m., Mettmann said. Seventy-five percent of auto-pedestrian fatalities happen when it’s dark.