POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Ronald Anderson is one of the 300 pedestrians the Florida Department of Transportation says uses Memorial Boulevard in Lakeland every day.

He admits he does not always use crosswalks.

“I just take my chances on trying to get across without getting hit,” he said.

But Thursday, there were representatives from the Florida Department of Transportation and law enforcement agencies who witnessed him not use the crosswalks and talked to him about it.

“I just wanted to try to promote that and get you to use the equipment,” said John Kubicki, an FDOT District 1 safety consultant to Anderson.

In February 2020, FDOT installed several pedestrian traffic beacons along Memorial Boulevard.

The project, including road and lighting improvements, cost nearly $5 million.

The beacons are supposed to stop traffic for pedestrians with the push of the button.

“A lot of times people when they [push] the button the cars keep going. Some stop, some stop before the light comes. Most of the time they stop but a lot of times they don’t,” said Anderson.

When it comes to compliance, FDOT’s biggest concerns are cars not stopping when the pedestrian light turns red and pedestrians avoiding the crosswalks altogether.

“This is an area that there’s some homelessness going on. To get from the north to the south of the boulevard, there’s a lot of frequent crossing,” said Lakeland Police Assistant Chief Hans Lehman. “It’s been an ongoing problem for years that we’ve tried to attack in different ways. We’re hoping this might help some.”

According to FDOT District One’s Law Enforcement Liaison, Janice Martinez, the following data was gathered at today’s Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon event:

  • 54 citations were issued to motorists. (The citations were a combination of PHB violations as well as non-compliance of wearing seatbelts and outdated registration, etc.)
  • 12 warnings were issued to motorists.
  • Approximately 50 pedestrians issued educational materials.
  • No pedestrians were cited.  
  • 2-hour detail with FHP, Lakeland PD and Polk County Sheriff’s Office. 

On Thursday, FDOT, Lakeland Police, Florida Highway Patrol and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office jointly enforced and educated pedestrians and drivers on how to safely navigate around each other.

“We’ve seen that there’s been some motorists that are not paying attention. They’re not stopping when they should. They’re not yielding to the pedestrian. When the pedestrian’s in the crosswalk and especially when the lights are activated, you need to yield to that pedestrian,” said Sgt. Steve Gaskins with Florida Highway Patrol.

Officials also want pedestrians to wear bright-colored clothing at night, put lights on their bicycles and use the equipment available to them.

“Use that crosswalk. It may be more initially convenient for you to just cross the highway right then and there. It’s hard to judge vehicle speeds coming out you for people that don’t know how to do that,” said Sgt. Steve Gaskins with Florida Highway Patrol.

While drivers can be cited for not yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks, pedestrians can also be cited for not using crosswalks.

According to Sgt. Gaskins, two out of three pedestrian crashes are the fault of the pedestrian.

“The natural assumption is vehicle hit a defenseless pedestrian, the driver’s at fault. That’s not always the case,” said Sgt. Gaskins.