The results of Ann Arbor’s Changing Driver Behavior Study were released Monday. The study, geared toward pedestrian safety and local drivers, showed a doubling in stopping at crosswalks with increased enforcement from the Ann Arbor Police Department.
The study began in June with increased enforcement at crosswalks on major commuting routes in Ann Arbor and ended the last week of October. Through the course of the study, officers stopped hundreds of drivers and issued failure-to-yield tickets and warnings. The Changing Driver Behavior Study says the final round of the study will start on November 7.
At the targeted crosswalks, the rate of stopping for pedestrians went from 27 percent to 58 percent. At the sites where no enforcement took place, stopping rates went from 37 percent to 49 percent.
In 2011, Ann Arbor passed an ordinance that forces motorists to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks as well as those waiting to cross and has been a source of controversy since.
Councilmember Jack Eaton, D-Ward 4, said he is planning to bring forward a proposal which would call for a review of the ordinance, as he says Ann Arbor’s streets are filled with people who aren’t from Ann Arbor and are ignorant of the ordinance.
"Nearly 400 citations have been issued," Eaton told Mlive. "We have so many visitors to this city every day that we really are expecting people to know intuitively apparently about our unique ordinance, and that causes me great concern that the experiment in enforcement has shown how little awareness there seems to be. Another reason to review the ordinance is the rapidly advancing technology of autonomous vehicles."
Ann Arbor resident Kathy Griswold said she supports cars stopping for pedestrians, but has concerns about lights being out at crosswalks and intersections.
“I fully support vehicles stopping for pedestrians within a crosswalk,” Griswold said. “I have grave concerns about the number of unlit crosswalks and the number of streetlights that are out around Ann Arbor.”
Griswold added while enforcement has improved the rates of stopping by cars and thus pedestrian safety, there are other measures that need to be taken to improve safety.
“We could significantly improve pedestrian safety in our community with consistently marked crosswalks, proper illumination and enforcement of stopping for a pedestrian within a crosswalk,” Griswold said. “What we’re trying to do is go one step beyond and have people stop for pedestrians on the side of the road and I believe that is a problem because it is not consistent with the rest of literally the world. There’s no other community that has an ordinance like Ann Arbor’s.”
Other council members have voiced their support for the ordinance, including Julie Grand, D-Ward 3, who appreciates the increased enforcement at crosswalks.
"As a parent of a child who has now reached the age where she is too cool to walk with parents, otherwise known as middle school, I really do appreciate the increased enforcement and see the tickets in areas that we knew were problematic as a real gain for our city and the safety of our kids," Grand told Mlive. "So I'm pleased to see this enforcement, which many of us on council have asked for, and encourage residents to be extra careful now that there are lots of little people and bigger people looking in their phones walking to school."
Pedestrian safety in crosswalks has been a topic of discussion for City Council for years.
In September 2015, City Council considered Vision Zero — an initiative endorsed by the city's Pedestrian Safety and Task Force Committee that strives to eliminate fatalities or serious injuries to pedestrians — in an attempt to address this issue.
A previous council report presented several policy proposals for pedestrian safety, including improved crosswalks and a ban on using hand-held devices for drivers. A study conducted in 2015 reported though Ann Arbor crashes involving pedestrians represented only 16 percent of all crashes, pedestrians account for one-third of the fatalities and one-fourth of all serious crash-related injuries.
After a fatal crash last October where Qi-Xuan “Justin” Tang was struck by a car and killed while crossing Fuller Road, some residents questioned why City Council funding was deferred from pedestrian safety to downtown projects. In February, City Council passed a resolution approving funding for improvements to this crossing, but local advocacy group A2 Safe Transport has consistently expressed frustration for what it claims is slow progress toward pedestrian safety.