Jaywalking crackdown to begin soon

TAMPA - If there's one place pedestrians might be more likely to follow the law and use a crosswalk, it would be in front of the Hillsborough County Courthouse, where tickets are paid.

That, however, isn't deterrent enough for people like Gilbert Aponte, who jaywalked across E. Twiggs Street Wednesday afternoon.

"What are they going to do? Run me over?" he laughed. "I don't think so."

Aponte hasn't seen the statistics. Tampa Bay doubles the national average in pedestrian fatalities, and law enforcement points to one major problem:  Jaywalking.

"It looks like someone went through a meat grinder.  It's horrific.  It's probably one of the worst things you'll ever see in your life," explained Tampa Police Sgt. Carl Giguere. "It looks like a war zone. I can't even describe to you how bad it is."

Sgt. Giguere, called to pedestrian fatalities several times a week, believes there is little respect for traffic rules, and no one thinks they'll actually get hit.  It's unfortunate, he says, because he witnesses what happens when they do.

"Get above 14 to 18 miles per hour, you start partial decapitation of limbs.  Anything above that can actually just explode the body," he explained.

Florida Highway Patrol troopers investigated more than 40 fatal pedestrian accidents in 2012.

"It's frustrating for DOT, but we're always trying to do something," said Florida Department of Transportation Spokesperson Kris Carson. "Try to save a few lives per year, that's what we can do."

One of their new programs starts in a few weeks.  FDOT will give $100,000 to Hillsborough County law enforcement for pedestrian patrols. No matter the amount of crosswalks or signage or education, FDOT says only enforcement will ultimately reduce the death rate.

"If you get a ticket, you're a jaywalker.  And you get a $60 ticket, that hurts you financially," Carson said.

It's about all that will stop Aponte, who still plans to jaywalk, even after our interview with him.

"Yes.  It's too hot here in Florida to walk from one end to the other and then cross the street," he said. "If there are no cars coming, I'm going to cross."

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