By Keith Regan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Selectman Leslie Rutan raised the issue of pedestrian safety on crosswalks around town at the Board of Selectmen meeting July 14, asking what the town can do to make crossing the street safer.
Rutan and others have raised the concern before and the same discussion has taken place in most other local communities. In Northborough, extra signage was erected to alert drivers to crosswalks and state grants have been used in the past to beef up enforcement.
But Police Chief Mark Leahy said the root cause of conflicts between cars and pedestrians isn's ignorance of the law or malice.
“People don's set out planning to break the law or create a danger on the roadways,” he said. “We'se finding most of the issues we encounter are related to the pace of life. Everybody is in a hurry.”
Rutan said she was reminded of the crosswalk issue by her daughter, who tries to use them to cross busy streets while running.
“People don's stop, if they are even looking,” she said. “It scares me.”
Selectmen Chair Jeff Amberson said he has seen instances where he stopped to let a walker cross the street, only to have impatient drivers pass him, creating an even more dangerous situation.
“It's enough to make you think twice about stopping yourself,” he said.
Leahy said the grant funds the department used in the past to specifically target crosswalk violations are not available this year.
“It's a matter of resources and we do the best we can with what we have to work with,” he said.
He also noted that the town has a strong record on pedestrian safety.
“We have a lot of close calls but fortunately not a lot of actually accidents involving pedestrians,” he said. “The numbers say it's not so.”
While there was a brief discussion about enhancing crosswalks with other technology, such as flashing warning lights activated from the curb, it was widely agreed the significant investment required still doesn's address the behavior of drivers.
Public awareness and education may be one of the most useful tools for reducing conflicts, Leahy added.
“The best thing you can do is what you'se doing right now,” he told Rutan.