TAMPA - By the score, motorcycle-mounted traffic officers made their presence known downtown Wednesday, pulling over drivers and reminding walkers about how we all must be aware and alert for each other.
"If the Tampa Bay area were a state, we would be 16th in the nation in pedestrian fatalities," said Karen Kress with the Downtown Tampa Partnership
While such deaths have dropped in Tampa, Florida still doubles the national numbers. And so the State Department of Transportation has extended a grant for stepped-up crosswalk enforcement, especially at rush hours and especially in high-traffic areas like around the courthouse downtown.
"We'd like to get the message out," said Tampa Police Department Sgt. Carl Giguere, "that if you're in a crosswalk, that's where you have the most protection, from cars that need to yield to you. We'd like to get the word out that all cars need to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks."
Since the federal grants began in 2010, TPD has pulled together 60 of these crosswalk enforcement operations.
That department will get an additional $100,000 to keep it up. Hillsborough County will get the same amount to mount their own offensive.
"Our area is a lot bigger," said Cpl. Tim Craig of the HCSO, "and we're always on the high-crash corridors where obviously the pedestrians are being struck."
Over the past five years, a fatal pedestrian crash has occurred, on average, every four-and-a-half days around here. Which is why Tampa and Hillsborough will be joined by the Pasco and Pinellas Sheriffs offices and Police in Largo, Pinellas Park and New Port Richey in this stepped-up effort.
"Not everyone gets a ticket on these," said Sgt. Giguere of TPD. "Sometimes its just a matter of speaking to the individual, educating him, although there probably will be some tickets written on this."
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President Barack Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro Tuesday at a memorial service for Nelson Mandela, a simple gesture that, while promptly downplayed by the White House, created a furor in Washington among critics of the Cuban regime.