Back to School in Knoxville Includes an E for Enforcement

Christy SmithAs students all across the state of Tennessee head back to school, children in Knoxville have police officers stepping up efforts to make sure safety is first.  In order to reduce the number of pedestrian crashes, the Knoxville Police Department (KPD) and the Knox County Safe Routes to School Partnership will implement a program to educate drivers about yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks. Tennessee’s Governor’s Highway Safety Office (GHSO) has recently granted $20,000 to KPD, the first high visibility enforcement grant of its kind specifically aimed at keeping pedestrians safe.

In areas where pedestrian crashes have taken place near schools, shopping centers and other high volume traffic areas, an off-duty, undercover police officer will cross the street in a marked crosswalk in a safe and legal manner. Two uniformed police officers will be on hand to give warnings or write citations to drivers who fail to yield to the undercover officer. The undercover officer will be brightly dressed, and the enforcement event will take place during daylight hours in a location with good visibility. Because this is an educational effort, signs will warn the drivers as they approach the enforcement area and times and locations will be widely publicized via traditional and social media. The goal is to educate, not just the drivers who are warned or ticketed, but the driving population in general, about their obligation to yield to pedestrians who are legally crossing the street. In order to ensure the success of this project, the Knoxville Safe Routes to School Partnership will reach out the courts to receive input and help make sure the tickets will be upheld.  They will also educate elected officials about the program and invite them to enforcement events to see the program in action. Research will be done on the rate of yielding in the enforcement zones to determine the success of the program.

Research by Ron Van Houten and J.E. Louis Malenfant in Miami Beach found that enforcement actions led to greater yielding behavior by drivers, and that effect lasted for a year following the events.  In Tennessee, GHSO has promised to look at the success of the program in Knoxville as a determining factor in providing similar grants to other police agencies across the state.  With or without increased enforcement in your hometown, make sure you slow down and look for children in school zones.