After handing out at least 177 jaywalking tickets in a three-week crackdown, Charlotte officials plan to upgrade safety measures in uptown, including new signs and possibly a new crosswalk.
Friday was the last official day of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police crackdown on jaywalkers and errant drivers uptown. It was a campaign launched by the police department’s Central Division, which covers uptown, in the wake of increased pedestrian crashes.
Officers shocked uptown workers and residents by handing out pricey tickets – $213 to jaywalkers and $223 to drivers who didn’t yield to pedestrians.
Officer Michael Tinsley, who spearheaded the campaign, said the efforts were more about safety awareness than the 177 tickets.
Charlotte has seen a rise in pedestrian-related crashes in recent years, and city data show that uptown streets have had the highest concentration of crashes since 2005.
The campaign was a response to crashes such as the two collisions in two days at Stonewall and College streets in January. Bank executive Brett Morgan, 47, was struck and killed while walking to work. The next day, pedestrian David Smuda, 42, was hit and injured at the same spot. Both were in a crosswalk.
From police observation during the crackdown, certain spots are particularly dangerous, and some changes will be made to make them safer.
Tinsley said South Tryon Street between Third Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard was particularly treacherous. “Third and Tryon streets are getting signs instructing pedestrians to utilize the crosswalk,” he said.
“No Stopping and No Standing” and “No U-Turn” signs are going in at Fourth and McDowell streets, near the county courthouse. “People are trying to drop people off for court, and it’s creating a hazard,” Tinsley said.
And the city is assessing plans to install a crosswalk and pedestrian traffic light on Third Street between Davidson and McDowell streets, he said.
Tinsley said he hopes the new measures will help, but added that he knows pedestrians will still jaywalk when it’s convenient.
“People are in such a hurry that they don’t realize it just takes a second to get to a crosswalk,” he said.
Still, Tinsley said, he thought the crackdown was successful. “The main objective was to make people aware of what’s going on and be aware of their surroundings,” he said.
‘The $213 is a little over the top’
While the hefty fines got many people in uptown talking, some said they don’t think the campaign made much of a difference.
“On a scale of one to 10?” lifelong Charlotte resident Mike Cathey asked, referring to the crackdown’s efficacy. “Zero.”
Cathey said he’s had a few recent occasions when he came close to hitting jaywalkers on uptown streets, and they didn’t get ticketed.
“It was blatant; I almost near hit ’em,” Cathey said. “They stared right at me as they slowly went across the street,” he said of one family that made him slam the brakes on Caldwell Street.
Matt Lutovsky got a jaywalking ticket the other week, but he’s appealing it because he said he wasn’t aggressively jaywalking. Tinsley previously had promised that only people who aggressively jaywalked would get citations.
“I was just going to where I park every day after work like I always do,” Lutovsky said.
It wasn’t until he was in his car and pulling out of the parking lot near Tryon and Morehead streets that an officer stopped him and asked whether he had just crossed the street.
Lutovsky told the officer that he knew he had jaywalked but thought he had done so safely because there wasn’t oncoming traffic.
He still got a ticket.
“I was totally shocked,” he said, adding that the ticket’s price tag was the most stunning. “I understand why they did it because of the accidents, but they could’ve gotten their point across by handing out $50 tickets or just talking to people about it. To me, the $213 is a little over the top.”
Now, Lutovsky said, he finds himself standing at uptown intersections with no cars in sight. He still waits for the signal to give him the go-ahead because he doesn’t want another ticket.
“It’s kind of one of those things where the people they did ticket are very upset and bitter, and those that they didn’t are going about their lives as normal,” he said.
Even though the crackdown is officially over, Tinsley said, officers will still occasionally patrol some intersections for aggressive jaywalkers and errant drivers.
“We just want people to do the right thing,” Tinsley said, “both vehicles and pedestrians.”