LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - The La Crosse Police Department is cracking down on pedestrian and bike laws thanks to new state grants, and it appears to be making a difference.
The number of bike and pedestrian-related accidents dropped from 90 in 2012 to 55 in 2013 after a year of increased enforcement.
The La Crosse Police Department received a pair of grants from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to put extra patrols around town, specifically focusing on bike and pedestrian laws.
Tuesday the department was at West Avenue and Vine Street watching for violations as they try to bring the number of accidents closer to zero.
This stretch of West Ave in La Crosse is typically a high-traffic area, especially when college students are in town.
"We have had several accidents over the last year where pedestrians or bicyclists have been injured while they've been trying to cross West Avenue," Sgt. Randy Rank of the La Crosse Police Department said.
Which is one of the reasons officers are using grant money to focus their attention there, making sure drivers and pedestrians alike are following the rules of the road.
"What we have out here today is one undercover officer that's crossing in the marked crosswalks, and he's making sure the motorists are yielding to the pedestrians in the marked crosswalks," Rank said.
But officers aren't only looking for drivers breaking the law.
"We're also looking out, for instance, a pedestrian that may run across the middle of the street here, darting out into traffic, which is very unsafe not only for him but also for the motorist who are suddenly breaking to avoid that person," Rank said.
The city is also making some changes to increase safety. It's installing flashing crosswalk signs along some busy roads.
"They're basically instantaneous. When someone comes up to these rapid-flash beacon crossings, pushes the button, they start flashing almost immediately and then traffic has the opportunity to stop far enough in advance because they're very bright," Dale Hexom, director of Public Works for the City of La Crosse, said.
While the lighted crosswalks are an added layer of safety, along with the stepped up enforcement, officers want to make sure people are always thinking about safety first.
The La Crosse Police Department has been doing these high visibility enforcements during high traffic times of the day for about a week now. During the three hours they are out, they are averaging 22 enforcement actions, which is either a written warning or a ticket, and a ticket can run around $250 for drivers.
The Police Department said they will be watching multiple locations around La Crosse until the grant money runs out.
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