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Crosswalk Crackdown? Not So Much

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Pedestrians brave a downtown crosswalk that is supposed to give them the right of way. (CBS)

Pedestrians brave a downtown crosswalk that is supposed to give them the right of way. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — If you drive through a crosswalk when somebody’s trying to cross, you could be fined up to $500, under a state law on the books since last spring.

But is the law really being enforced? The chances of getting away with it are pretty good, CBS 2’s Mike Parker reports.

State law now says that when you see someone simply step into a crosswalk, you must stop your vehicle and let them pass. But at one crosswalk in the heart of the Loop on Monday, walkers often waited a long time as traffic just whizzed by.

One man waiting to cross from the Cook County Building across Clark Street to the Daley Center had to wait a full minute, even though he had the right of way.  He said he often uses the walkway – which is plainly marked – and simply takes his chances.

Another man and his son had to bide their time, too.

“It’s always an issue, a big concern,” he said.

Last spring, the Chicago Police Department staged a series of highly publicized stings using plainclothes officers in crosswalks. When drivers didn’t stop, they were ticketed. The department said it was trying to call attention to the new law, which is aimed at reducing pedestrian crosswalk deaths and injuries.

Dan Persky of Chicago’s Active Transportation Alliance lobbied for passage of the law.

“A new law on its own needs aggressive enforcement. Right now, it’s words on a paper,” he said.

During the last nine months of 2010, the Chicago Police Department says it issued 1,177 citations, an average of 4.3 per day.

Driver Alyson Arnold believes all police officers need to be aware of the law, too. She described stopping for a man in a crosswalk on North Clark Street.

“The policeman behind me wasn’t looking where he was going because he had to stop short not to hit me,” she said.

Officially police officials say the law is crystal clear. Still, it would seem that the department does not expect motorists to instantly change their years of driving habits.        

Ninety percent of drivers now wear seat belts, but it took decades to get to this point.

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