Are flashing lights at crosswalks as effective as hoped?

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A concerned Tampa mom expressed her fear that flashing crosswalks wouldn’t keep trick-or-treaters safe this Halloween just hours before a Pasco boy was run over in a crosswalk.

Michelle James brought her concerns to 8 On Your Side because she repeatedly sees drivers disregard flashing crosswalks and the people using them all across Tampa and the Bay Area.

“I don’t know if people just don’t understand that they have to stop, if they don’t care, or if they’re just not paying attention,” James said Thursday afternoon, pausing as a car honked its horn at a pedestrian in a flashing light crosswalk behind her on Davis Islands.

Thursday night, six-year-old Dominick Keyes of Trinity was run over by a truck in a crosswalk while trick-or-treating with his family. The driver’s wife told 8 On Your Side at the scene that her husband saw the crosswalk lights flashing, but didn’t see the little boy.

After her frustration with drivers ignoring flashing crosswalks, James predicted the accident hours before it happened. Two days prior, she witnessed a kid on his bike nearly get taken out in a Davis Islands crosswalk, despite the flashing lights.

“He even looked back at me like like ‘jeez what the heck?'” she said. “What happens if there’s a kid walking out in his little Halloween costume?”

By law, drivers must stop for pedestrians in any crosswalk. The flashing lights installed at some crosswalks are merely to help better alert drivers to the presence of pedestrians.

If you come to a crosswalk where lights are flashing, but not one is crossing, you can keep driving without stopping.

Seven crashes so far this year were the result of failing to yield to pedestrians, according to the Tampa Police Department. But if there’s not a crash, it can be a tricky violation to enforce.

In contrast, they’ve issued only 11 citations in 2019, with 29 warnings, even though people like Michelle James call it an everyday occurence.

“We’ve seen it several times just here in the last 10-15 minutes,” James said.

There are 40 crosswalks with flashing beacons installed in the city of Tampa, with many more in the design/planning phases, according to city officials.

If you’re caught fielding to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk, it could cost you a $163 fine.

Charges are still pending against the driver in the Pasco case, according to FHP.

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