Sunday August 19, 2012

LENOX -- With Tangle wood in full swing and the tourist season churn going strong Saturday, the Lenox Police Department embarked on an awareness campaign to help drivers understand that when a pedestrian is in the crosswalk, the law requires that drivers yield the right of way.

On Saturday, police checked in on Main Street traffic several times, and issued three warnings to drivers.

"We’re just trying to see how big a problem it is," said Lenox Patrolman Michael Smith. "Our real focus with the drivers has been to issue warnings at this point -- it’s an awareness effort."

Patrolman Paul Duval noted that this time of year, there are many people visiting from places where traffic enforcement may not focus on crosswalk violations, so the drivers’ expectations regarding pedestrians’ movements are different. But here, where all crosswalks are supposed to be safe zones for pedestrians, people expect cars to stop when they enter the crosswalk.

Opposing expectations like these can lead to dangerous scenarios.

There was a complaint filed in Lenox recently regarding motorists violating the crosswalk right-of-way. So police are gathering information on the frequency and nature of violations to get a handle on the type of enforcement that is needed.

When issuing a warning, Smith noted, the drivers typically say that they didn’t notice the pedestrian entering the crosswalk.

With cars parked along both sides of Main Street, he noted, when someone enters the crosswalk from between two cars, they can be hard to spot from a driver’s seat.

"And they can get distracted pretty easily," Smith said.

Officials are also considering painting the crosswalks in a bolder color, and posting temporary signs in the street at the crosswalks to help in the awareness effort.

At least one visitor to town Saturday thought the effort is a good idea.

"In Connecticut, we see cars fly right through the crosswalks all the time," said Dave Slemmer. "So this is absolutely a good idea."

To reach Scott Stafford:
sstafford@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6241
On Twitter: @BE_SStafford