The number of drivers yielding to pedestrians at crosswalks has recently increased in the city of Springfield. Springfield Yields, a government organization that started in 2017, is a pedestrian safety campaign that is aimed at achieving improvements in driver compliance and decreases in pedestrian accidents.
According to Mandy Buettgen-Quinn, traffic safety specialist for the City of Springfield, drivers failing to yield to pedestrians is the cause of approximately half of the 60-70 pedestrian crashes per year in Springfield.
“The problem is, if we want pedestrians to not undertake risky crossings, like at gridlock locations, then we do need to make sure that the crosswalks are actually safe and working for them,” said Buettgen-Quinn.
Every quarter of the year, SGF Yields collaborates with the Public Works Department to conduct crosswalk compliance studies. Buettgen-Quinn said a staff member will approach selected crosswalks in plain clothing and measure how many drivers stop for the pedestrian. From this study, they can gauge the percentage of driver compliance.
According to a news release from the City of Springfield, driver compliance in Springfield was an average of 25% when the assessments began in 2017. That percentage has now increased to 54% in the fourth quarter of 2022.
“Only one in four drivers were yielding, and now with education, engineering, some enforcement, public encouragement and also some policy changes, we’ve been able to bring that up,” Buettgen-Quinn said.
SGF Yields uses a variety of techniques to make improvements in driver compliance in Springfield. Their main tactics include public awareness through educational graphics on social media, community events, improved city grid crosswalks and improved engineering such as installing median islands and rectangular rapid flash beacons.
“We also started educating at Springfield Public Schools so that as the kids grow up, they have more of an awareness of pedestrians and it also helps them stay safe on their way to school and back,” Buettgen-Quinn said.
Springfield has several laws and regulations that are aimed at reducing pedestrian accidents. The White Cane law in Missouri requires all drivers to yield to pedestrians with a cane or service dog. According to Buettgen-Quinn, this law was adapted into the Springfield City Code to reiterate the law and convey its importance to drivers in Springfield.
Unique to Springfield and only a few other cities is the three-foot rule. This rule requires drivers to yield to all pedestrians that are within three feet of a crosswalk. Before November 2020 when the three-foot rule was approved, pedestrians had to step into the road to technically have the right of way.
“That allows pedestrians to stay on the sidewalk where they’re safe close to the street and drivers have to yield to them, versus having to put a foot into the road and hope that somebody stops for them,” Buettgen-Quinn said.
According to Buettgen-Quinn, SGF Yields is funded by the Show Me Zero Highway Safety Grant from the Missouri Department of Transportation and has also recently been funded under a federal grant to expand SGF Yields on a national level. Safe Across, a new national version of SGF Yields, is being launched to continue spreading pedestrian safety efforts to other communities.
Buettgen-Quinn and her counterpart at the Public Information Office are the only two employees at Springfield Yields. The organization also sources labor from Public Works as needed for crosswalk and Mr. Walker sculpture installations.
Mr. Walker, a neon yellow sculpture of a person with a heart outline in the middle, has several locations around the city to bring more attention to pedestrian crosswalks.
“Mr. Walker is our spokesperson we use to communicate our pedestrian safety messages but he also helps train drivers to recognize those crosswalk signs and to know to yield,” Buettgen-Quinn said. “He is an integral part of our program.”
Mr. Walker sculptures can be spotted in nine different locations around the City of Springfield, including at Park Central Square and at the Grand Street and Hammons Parkway intersection near Missouri State University.
SGF Yields also works closely with the Springfield Police Department to increase driver compliance at crosswalks. Starting in 2021, the police department has performed occasional yield checks. This is when an officer, dressed in regular clothing, walks across a crosswalk to monitor driver compliance. If a driver fails to yield, another officer pulls the driver over to issue them a warning or a citation.
The time and locations of the yield checks are shared on social media beforehand and advertised with posted signage.
“This is a high visibility campaign so this is advertised all over the place,” Buettgen-Quinn said. “This is more about education. It's not a revenue generator.”
Buettgen-Quinn hopes that SGF Yield’s efforts will continue to increase driver compliance and one day make it so that most drivers in Springfield yield to pedestrians.
To learn more about SGF Yields, visit their information page and Facebook page.
Follow Jenna Murray on Twitter, @Jenna_Murray5
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