hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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August 22, 2013

City must act quickly to discourage jaywalking

It’s dangerous. It’s against the law.

It can leave drivers liable when they did nothing wrong.

It can kill.

But still people do it.

Jaywalking has taken center stage politically in Haverhill, after a concerned resident told the City Council about her frightening experiences watching people all over the city crossing the street without using crosswalks.

Miranda Kocher said she began documenting people jaywalking after seeing a boy hit and killed by a car when she lived in another state. (See story, Page 1.) She said she has watched and taken photos of people jaywalking across busy streets while they were pushing baby carriages or riding in motorized wheelchairs. She has watched in horror as young people dodge fast-moving cars while making their way from one side of the street to the other.

In some cases, she watched cars come to a screeching halt to avoid the jaywalkers.

Kocher pleaded with councilors to do something about the situation before lives are ruined, before a jaywalker is hit and seriously injured or killed, before a driver’s life is thrown into chaos for something that was not his fault.

Councilors discussed the issue and decided the best approach is to focus on education. They said asking police to enforce the city’s jaywalking law — which carries a whopping $1 fine — is silly. Police don’t have the staffing to look out for jaywalkers. Street gangs and drug dealers are higher on the priority list, and rightfully so.

The council plans to ask schools and civic groups to get on board with the educational program. The time is right. The school year is about to begin — a time when lots of kids will be out and about, crossing streets.

Councilors said they will invite school officials and representatives of service groups to a meeting to develop an educational campaign aimed at young children. Councilors said they might even try to make it part of the school curriculum.

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