ESSEX — Saturday morning just after 8 and the traffic on Eastern Avenue was heating up, as was the third day of autumn.
At the intersection of Main Street and Southern Avenue, police Officer Paul Peoples, dressed in plain clothes, stood at the curb before purposefully entering the crosswalk that spans Main Street.
A grayish Honda Pilot heading east appeared to be within the posted speed. Still, it never slowed as Peoples continued across the street, the vehicle blithely continuing up around the curve and onto Eastern Avenue.
“Here we go,” police Officer Dan Bruce said calmly in the cab of the department’s pickup truck — unmarked until he hits the blue lights, and then it lights up like a Christmas tree. He put the truck in gear and pulled out from his space across from the Richdale, moving to catch up with the Pilot.
Ten minutes later, the driver of the Pilot had a written warning for a crosswalk-pedestrian violation and Bruce was on his way back to set up anew.
The two officers spent much of Saturday morning in the same Kabuki as part of the department’s campaign to heighten awareness of pedestrian safety.
Within the first 45 minutes, Bruce had made three stops and issued three written warnings. The Honda Pilot was followed by a red Ford Fiesta, which gave way to a Toyota Tacoma truck.
In each instance, Bruce approached the stopped vehicle and, unfailingly polite, cited the reason for the traffic stop and explained the emphasis the town was placing on pedestrian safety. Among the drivers, contrition seemed to be the order of the day — and perhaps relief that the written warning easily could have been a ticket in excess of $200.
“We’ve been out here a few times and I think people are finally starting to catch on,” Bruce said. “People don’t always realize how long it takes to stop.”
The campaign, according to police Chief Peter Silva, has been funded with a state grant that also allowed the town to purchase additional stationary pedestrian signs for crosswalks throughout town.
As if a message from the pedestrian gods, the one located in the Main Street Causeway crosswalk in front of the CK Pearl restaurant recently was struck by a motorist later arrested on drunken driving charges. That’s the same spot that two Rockport men were injured while crossing the street, when they were struck by a sport utility vehicle shortly before 6:30 New Year’s night.
“We’re not just looking to ticket people,” Silva said. “We’re just trying to use the program as an educational tool, to get people to be more aware of pedestrians and practice safer driving.”
Later in the morning, Bruce and Peoples, who managed to avoid any truly close calls, moved up Main Street to the crosswalk near CK Pearl and finished out what will be the last day of the campaign, as the grant funding has expired.
“Hopefully, we’ve been able to get the message across, that it’s in everyone’s best interests to be more aware of pedestrians and understand how important it is to operate in a way that everybody stays safe,” Bruce said.
Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.