Responding to the rising rates of pedestrian death and injury since 2013, the city of Phoenix is making efforts to lower the number of pedestrian fatalities in 2018.
In 2016, Arizona was the state with the highest rate of deaths per population for pedestrian accidents according to the Governors Highway Safety Association's 2017 report of preliminary data.
With 111 deaths of Arizona pedestrians as of July 2018, the City of Phoenix Street Transportation Department is addressing the dangers of jaywalking by installing more pedestrian crossing signals, including 51 High-Intensity Activated CrossWalK beacons in 2018.
Phoenix PD is also currently conducting their own crackdown on jaywalking and other traffic violations in an effort to prevent pedestrian related accidents.
Vince Lewis, public information sergeant for the Phoenix Police Department, said officers are not eagerly hiding around corners to catch jaywalkers. Instead, they understand the importance of learning from the experience.
Lewis said that Phoenix PD uses a four-step approach when it comes to jaywalking: assess the situation, determine if extra engineering is required to make the rules more clear, educate violators and if needed, enforce the consequences through fines.
“The best way to avoid any issues is to abide by the laws and stick in well-lit, marked crosswalks," Lewis said. He also said this campaign has focused greatly on educating pedestrians before resorting to enforcement through tickets.
While the intention is to lower pedestrian and vehicle collisions, not everyone agrees with the extra enforcement and money Phoenix is putting toward jaywalking prevention.
"If someone is going to cross the street that's their own prerogative, and if they get hurt that's on them, but it seems senseless to wait to cross the street if you've looked both ways and nothing is coming," said freshman nursing major Lauren Haggar, who said she has occasionally jaywalked and has yet to be cited for it.
Haggar also said that she has heard pedestrians could be ticketed for entering the crosswalk during the countdown regardless of the amount of seconds left, a rule that was not enforced in Scottsdale and Cave Creek. According to Lewis, a pedestrian may not enter the crosswalk once the signal changes color and begins flashing with the countdown, and those already in the crosswalk must continue across the street and out of the roads.
Some others who are doubtful of the jaywalking crackdown cite racial and economic class targeting.
“I wouldn’t discount it as a possibility. There was an incident here where an African American professor was stopped for jaywalking and I find it hard to believe that it would have happened the way it did if she were white,” ASU Political Science Professor David Wells said.
An incident in 2014 made national news when a female African American ASU professor was stopped by a campus officer for jaywalking. The situation escalated, ending with her pleading guilty to resisting arrest and the officer resigning.
According to Alberto Gutier of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, efforts to halt the climbing rate of pedestrian death do not see race or economic status. For Gutier, protecting pedestrians has been, and will always be, the top priority.
“We’re trying to protect the people: the people without cars, the people who take the light rail, the busses, anyone who is walking from one side of the street to another,” he said.
In Gutier’s experience, those most at risk of being involved in an accident were those who were in the roads at night in dark clothing, especially while distracted by their phones. He believes that with the ever-rising rates of fatality, education and campaigns on road safety are especially important now.
In 2017, Phoenix PD also started a social media campaign to raise awareness about and discourage jaywalking called Rock the Crosswalk in which they replicated popular rock music cover art.
For drivers and pedestrians alike, the best way to avoid accidents is to be aware of one’s surroundings. Regardless of an individual’s stance on jaywalking, abiding by traffic lights and signs can sometimes the difference between life and death.
For Lewis, the best advice he has for students is, "it really comes down to what your parents told you as a kid — use the crosswalk and look both ways before you go."