A disheveled man looks both ways, then darts across the street. A mother grabs her two youngsters’ hands, and pulls them over the asphalt while cars slam on their brakes.
Another man becomes stuck in the middle of the road when he realizes traffic won’t slow enough to let him cross.
Mesa residents believe scenes like these are becoming a problem throughout the city, and police are warning the public that if you jaywalk and escape a fine, you still may not escape with your life.
“I don’t think people really realize how serious it is,” said Mesa crime prevention officer Patty Gallagher. “When we’re driving down the street, you don’t expect a person to be standing in the road.”
Gallagher said the jaywalking issue came up at a recent Central Community Policing Advisory Board meeting, and the concerns have prompted her to create fliers to hand out to pedestrians and post at bus stops.
“Last year there were no fatalities related to jaywalkers,” said Mesa police spokeswoman Detective Diana Tapia.
But just last week, a 36-year-old woman was taken to Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn hospital with injuries after she jaywalked across County Club Drive just north of University Drive and was struck by a southbound Jeep, a police report shows. She suffered minor injuries in the incident and was mailed a citation for jaywalking.
Traffic officer Mike Ybarra sees jaywalkers every day as he zips around the city on a motorcycle. He said he sometimes cites the pedestrians, and other times takes the opportunity to educate them. The ticket generally carries a $114 fine.
“Sometimes they are running for a bus, sometimes we’ll help them as far as expedite them getting to the bus,” Ybarra said. “Our job is not just enforcement, but the education component of it.”
Debra Boyles, 51, of Mesa said Friday at a bus stop on Alma School Road north of Southern Avenue that she appreciates police officers’ efforts to enforce jaywalking, even though she herself sometimes crosses the street illegally to catch a bus.
“I tend to make sure there’s no cars coming. ... I know it’s wrong,” Boyles said.
She added, “With the way the buses run and the way they go, you want to make sure you get to your connection.”
Another woman at the bus stop, Naeemah Muhammad, 52, of Mesa expressed similar sentiments.
“The buses don’t wait for you,” Muhammad said. “I actually darted right in between the cars before to catch my bus before it took off.”
Muhammad said the buses are pretty good about waiting for people who are running toward them, unless they are behind schedule.
Ybarra said that even if there isn’t a crosswalk, it is perfectly legal — unless a sign is posted saying otherwise — to cross streets at corners. An example of where pedestrians should cross at corners is on Mesa Drive between Broadway Road and Southern Avenue, where there is about a mile stretch without a crosswalk.
“People as drivers are looking for a hazard with all those side streets,” Ybarra said.
On the other hand, when people cross midblock on busy streets, vehicles are traveling at high speeds and may not anticipate a jaywalker.
Ybarra said if someone jaywalks and is struck by a vehicle, police consider the pedestrian at fault, unless the driver is speeding, under the influence of drugs or alcohol or is committing some other type of crime when the crash occurs.