ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- From "I just got my eyes tested and my pupils are dilated," to "I'm late to work," and of course, "Oh my god. I saw the red light too late," St. Pete police officers have heard it all.
On Tuesday, officers confronted walkers, cyclists and drivers along the busy 4th Street North during the first day of a high visibility enforcement.
The nearly $80,000 7-week enforcement is aimed at saving lives. Since January, 2 cyclists and 14 walkers have died on St. Pete streets, twice as many as St. Pete saw year to date in 2018.
Now, St. Pete Officers are on a mission to change the behavior of both drivers and pedestrians to keep people safe.
ABC Action News rode along with Officer Jake Yancey, one of more than a dozen officers hitting the street as part of the high visibility enforcement.
Officers hope to speak with around 3,000 people over the upcoming several weeks targeting high crash areas along 4th Street N, Martin Luther King Jr. St. (9th Street), 34th Street, 1st Avenue N, Central Avenue, 5th Avenue and 18th Avenue S.
Across Tampa Bay, 22 bicyclists and 88 pedestrians have lost their lives since January.
Many like Earl Fisher know it's dangerous to cross mid-block but they do it anyway. “I do it because I don’t trust the crosswalk. You get hit at the crosswalk. It don’t matter. People come across the crosswalks. So you just gotta cross the best way you can. Like momma told us, you've gotta look both ways,” Fisher explained after darting across 4th Street to catch the bus.
“I would implore people please do not do that. That’s how we end up with pedestrians severely injured or killed," St. Pete Police Sergeant Bill Burris said.
Officers hope the extra enforcement will save lives. With more people moving to Tampa Bay, officers say walkers and cyclists are coming into contact with cars more often.
“People are always on their GPS. They’re texting, they’re talking. They're in a hurry. If people set down the phones and followed the laws, we’d reduce many of the problems we have,” Burris elaborated.
The high visibility enforcement will continue through May 2020. Officers plan to give out more warnings than tickets and say the goal is to educate, not penalize pedestrians and drivers.