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Effectiveness: 3 Star Cost: $$
Use: Low
Time: Short

The purpose of enforcement strategies is to increase compliance with the pedestrian and motorist traffic laws that are most likely to enhance the safety of pedestrians in areas where crashes are happening or most likely to happen due to increased pedestrian and motorist exposure. Behavioral pedestrian safety initiatives require improvements in unsafe driver and pedestrian behaviors. Once pedestrians and drivers are informed of the behavior changes needed and why they are important, enforcement often is necessary to encourage compliance for the same reasons found with seatbelt use, etc. Although enforcement was implied or stated for many earlier countermeasures, enforcement strategies and targeted enforcement deserve additional discussion in relation to pedestrian safety. Many enforcement or crosswalk operations use plainclothes officers to act as pedestrians crossing the street, typically with one or two uniformed officers observing for violations and another giving warnings or writing citations (NHTSA, 2014).

Traffic enforcement is most effective when it is highly visible and publicized, to reinforce the required behavior and to raise the expectation that failure to comply may result in legal consequences. Enforcement campaigns should be aimed at drivers and pedestrians, starting with the communications and outreach that announce, describe, and publicize the traffic safety campaign through community meetings, media coverage, social media, mass emails, and signage (NHTSA, 2014).

A coordinated program of targeted enforcement should involve a range of support, such as communications and outreach to notify the public of the campaign, training LEOs on enforcement procedures and pedestrian and crosswalk laws, and educating prosecutors and judges so they understand the purposes of the campaign and are prepared for the increase in citations enforcement will produce (NHTSA, 2014). Training for prosecutors and judges can help build the case for enforcement of traffic laws and planned enforcement operations with appropriate follow-up throughout the judicial system. A pilot study in North Carolina found that once prosecution that was more stringent was publicized, the court case load did not increase as feared, because more drivers paid their citations automatically (Hunter et al., 2001).

NHTSA’s web-based law enforcement training course teaches law enforcement personnel the basics of pedestrian safety and targeted enforcement techniques and is available from the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST), an international organization of training managers and executives dedicated to the improvement of public safety personnel. IADLEST serves as the national forum of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) agencies, boards, and commissions as well as statewide training academies throughout the United States. Training officers or individual officers wishing to access the training, can submit a request for access: This resource will be updated in the coming years to include new pedestrian laws and engineering countermeasures to assist officers’ understanding of how engineering, education, and enforcement play a vital role in pedestrian safety enforcement. Note this training is national in scope, so common themes and laws are addressed. Officers must look to their own States for specific laws. Some States are offering quick training and resources to supplement the NHTSA course with a State specific focus through bulletins, on-line, group in-person, or on the job training. As part of their Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow pedestrian safety campaign in Florida, for example, officers may sign up for overtime pedestrian crosswalk enforcement. However, they first must provide documentation that they have taken NHTSA’s web-based training (referenced above) and watched both their State specific Pedestrian Safety Roll Call for Law Enforcement (YouTube) and the Cycling Safety Roll Call for Law Enforcement (YouTube), each approximately 15 minutes.

A targeted North Carolina program called “Watch for Me NC” is aimed at increasing pedestrian and bicyclist safety by reducing their crash risk (Sandt et al., 2016). The campaign includes tailored safety messages directed towards pedestrian, bicyclists, and drivers, and HVE of traffic safety laws. As part of the campaign 118 police officers in North Carolina attended one-day workshops on pedestrian safety. In a pre-post test evaluation, officers who participated scored 24% higher on knowledge surveys about pedestrians and driver yielding laws after taking the workshop (Sandt, LaJeuness, et al., 2015). Only 14% of participating officers reported having taken a pedestrian and bicycle law course before. NHTSA’s Pedestrian Safety Enforcement Operations: How-To Guide (2014) offers LEAs a resource for setting up staged crosswalk enforcement operations (see An FHWA report summarizes information on the Watch for Me NC campaign for consideration by other States (see

Use: Low. Enforcement is largely a local option, and often is integrated into other police duties, so special enforcement efforts are difficult to isolate and track. However, the use of targeted pedestrian safety enforcement is on the rise. Several localities (including Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Pinellas County, Florida and Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina) and States such as New Jersey and New Mexico have, in the past few years, implemented training for LEOs and conducted targeted enforcement efforts for pedestrian safety. The Watch for Me NC campaign and another Florida enforcement program in Gainesville have been evaluated and are described below.

Effectiveness: Enforcement strategies and targeted enforcement can be employed for a wide range of purposes in a wide range of circumstances, so effectiveness is context-dependent. As reported above, the Watch for Me NC campaign’s training course increased police officers’ knowledge and capacity for enforcement operations. An evaluation of the first-year activities found that enforcement efforts were noteworthy; however, there was still room for improvement in drivers’ yielding behaviors. Pre-post enforcement evaluations showed that drivers’ yielding behaviors were modestly improved only in areas with the highest enforcement, while yielding behaviors in other areas did not change. Though not conclusive due to limited data, the study also found that pedestrian crossing violations may have decreased by 24% during the first year of implementation (Sandt et al., 2016).

Similarly, a before/after study with a comparison group examined the effects of sustained, enhanced HVE of motorist yielding to pedestrians, combined with publicity and other community outreach in Gainesville (e.g., flyers given to stopped drivers, information sent home with school children, roadside feedback signs, and earned and paid media) (Van Houten, Malenfant, Blomberg, et al., 2013; Van Houten, Malenfant, Huitema, & Blomberg, 2013). Driver yielding rose throughout the 1-year study period that included four, 2-week waves of enforcement, along with the other activities. Four of the six enforcement sites observed significant increases in yielding at the end of the period with a fifth experiencing a positive trend. Only one location, on a university campus with an already high baseline rate of yielding, did not observe an increase. Yielding also increased at the comparison sites, although not by the same degree. Driver awareness of the enforcement, especially awareness of the enforcement-related feedback signs, also increased to a high level from 13% at baseline to 78% at the end of the year. A follow-up study 4 years after the HVE program ended found that yielding behavior actually increased at both the enforcement and comparison sites after the program had ceased despite there being no additional enforcement efforts (Van Houten et al., 2017). This suggests that there was a sustained change in the driving culture of the area. Earlier, Van Houten and Malenfant (2004) had found more modest increases in driver yielding to pedestrians in response to a single wave of targeted police enforcement at crosswalks on two corridors in Miami Beach. Warnings and educational flyers were handed out to most violators, while citations were issued for flagrant violations. Some publicity also resulted from the enforcement efforts. The yielding reductions are promising, but effects on crashes and injuries were undetermined as pedestrian crashes are relatively infrequent events.

In a NHTSA study by Savolainen et al. (2011), law enforcement officials in Detroit implemented two pedestrian-oriented enforcement campaigns at Wayne State University aiming to educate campus pedestrians on proper use of crosswalks and the importance of obeying signals through the issuance of warnings. The study saw pedestrian violations (walking outside the crosswalk or against the signal) reduced between 17% and 27% immediately after the campaign, with sustained reductions of between 8% and 10% several weeks after active enforcement ceased. Study authors noted that pedestrian compliance was also heavily associated with the presence, quality, and location of pedestrian facilities (including pedestrian signals, bus stops, crosswalks, and convenient crossing opportunities).

Costs: The cost of the enforcement is a direct function of the size of the effort, the amount of enforcement, and associated supplies, ranging from vehicle operating costs to equipment such as speed measurement devices or alcohol test machines. If overtime is used to increase enforcement, costs would be higher. Free or low-cost training of enforcement officers on data driven focused efforts at the local level, can enhance both the cost and time spent to educate and enforce those laws and pedestrian and motorist behaviors most likely to influence serious injury or fatalities to pedestrians.

Time to implement: Short. Law enforcement resources can be diverted to targeted enforcement very quickly. However, special training to ensure safe and consistent crosswalk enforcement operations may be needed, and periodic data analysis conducted to ensure potential high crash locations are targeted for safety behaviors that influence the safety of pedestrians, including speed and distraction. Developing a plan that coordinates law changes, environmental changes, or support communications and outreach with enforcement can take longer. Communications and outreach are keys to maximal effectiveness.