Hillsborough deputies campaign for pedestrian safety

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Pedestrian fatalities in Florida continue to rise, but starting this week you may meet a deputy at the crosswalk.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is running an educational campaign in an effort to bring the number of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths down.

Deputies are focusing on areas with the highest numbers of crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists. They're handing out literature and giving bicyclists safety lights while reminding drivers they're not the only ones on the roads.

It seems everyone is in a hurry, whether you're on four wheels, two wheels, or two legs. But when it comes time to cross the road, a few seconds of patience can make all the difference.

Last year, 667 pedestrians and 140 bicyclists were killed in the state of Florida. 50 pedestrians and 12 bicyclists died in Hillsborough County, according to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Lieutenant O'Neal Jackson says just one is too many.

"What we'll be looking for is people not using crosswalks, drivers impeding the crosswalks so pedestrians can't walk safely," Jackson said. "We'll look for people, bicyclists that aren't following the traffic law."

Hillsborough County deputies have begun their"Pedestrian High Visibility Enforcement Campaign, focusing on these areas:

-Fletcher Avenue corridor from Nebraska Avenue to Bruce B. Downs Boulevard

-Waters Avenue West corridor from Sheldon Road to Himes Avenue North

-Sheldon Road corridor between Hillsborough Avenue West and Linebaugh Avenue

-Hillsborough Avenue corridor from Sheldon Road to George Road

Deputies are handing out safety tips to walkers and bicyclists as they wait and educating those who don't wait.

Drivers are being reminded to stop before impeding crosswalk. Meanwhile, bicyclists without proper safety gear are given nighttime lights so drivers can see them.

"Thank you, guys. There are so many accidents on the bikes," said a woman as she rode away.

Sammy Creasong said that almost every one of his bike rides involves a close call.

"Even if you do obey traffic laws, people don't pay attention," Creasong said.

He hopes the extra education makes the roads a less stressful place.

"Please pay attention, please pay attention, especially in this area," Creasong said. "Just pay attention for us. We are around."

This program will run through May 18. The first phase will be education-focused. The second phase will involve deputies handing out warnings. In the third phase, deputies will issue citations if the violation is serious enough.

"Take your time, be patient, use the crosswalks," Lt. Jackson said. "There's plenty of them available."

HCSO offers these general safety tips for pedestrians:

-Be visible. Walk in well-lit areas.

-Wear bright or reflective clothing. Be seen. Be safe.

-Assume drivers do not see you.

-Use a crosswalk. Push button to activate the walk signal.

-Look left, right and left again before crossing the street.

For bicyclists, HCSO encourages you to:

-Turn on your front white light and red taillight at night. Red reflectors are also required.

-Stay visible. Choose well-lit bicycle routes.

-Always wear a helmet, the brighter the better.

-Bicycles on the road are vehicles.

-Obey all traffic signs, signals, and lane markings.

-Yield to traffic when appropriate. It's better to be safe than "to be right."