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Police enforce pedestrian safety

It takes the average healthy adult 16 seconds to walk across an intersection, but Burbank police on Wednesday were more interested in how long it takes a driver to stop.

Beginning at 8 a.m. on Wednesday morning, police officers conducted a pedestrian enforcement operation at the intersection of West Magnolia Boulevard and North Parish Place and issued dozens of tickets.

Dressed in plain clothes with a non-descript sweatshirt and a beanie, police Det. Paul Orlowski set up a video camera on the southwest corner to document violations as he walked across the street about 100 times over the course of 11/2 hours as vehicles sped by.

“It takes about 16 seconds for the average person to walk across the street,” said police Sgt. Kelly Frank after timing Orlowski on his stopwatch. “We are giving the drivers about seven seconds to realize he’s crossing before we stop them.”

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Police could ticket anyone who continues to drive through the intersection once a pedestrian steps into the street, but on Wednesday, officers only targeted drivers who ignored Orlowski’s right-of-way in order to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Although the violations captured on film are not admissible in court, Burbank police officials said they offer to show the tape to anyone who may want to contest the ticket.

“I’ve had some really close calls in the past and I have to pay attention while I do this,” he said.

For one driver, the violation almost landed her in jail after police said she refused to sign the citation at the scene.

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The woman, who was pulled over in her Mercedes after allegedly driving through the intersection, was handcuffed at the scene and taken to police headquarters after officers said she refused to sign the citation.

Faced spending the night in jail, police said she decided to sign the ticket and the officers returned her to her vehicle.

“A lot of people are upset, obviously,” said police Lt. J.J. Puglisi after pulling over a number of motorists. “But this is absolutely necessary for safety.”

As Orlowski walked back and forth at the intersection, he experienced nearly a dozen near misses, despite being vigilant.

“Now imagine if he was an 80-year-old senior crossing the street instead,” said Frank. “There is no way they could avoid it.”

Burbank Police conduct about six pedestrian stings each year at high traffic intersections along Magnolia and Glenoaks boulevards, Riverside Drive and occasionally Burbank Boulevard.

Morning stings focus on motorists, while lunchtime operations work to educate pedestrians who enter streets when it appears to be safe, rather than when it’s legal, Frank said.

Officers have pushed strollers and even dressed up like Santa Claus while crossing the street during past enforcement operations.

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Glendale police had an officer don an Easter bunny costume last year to get motorists to pay attention.

Last month, the California Office of Traffic Safety ranked Burbank 31 out of 56 among cities with a population of 100,001 to 250,000 for overall pedestrian safety in 2009, the latest figures available.

The higher the ranking, the safer it is to cross the street, and in 2008, the city’s record was worse, coming in at 11 among 55 cities. The ranking takes into account the number of victims injured or killed in collisions involving pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists or alcohol.

Burbank moved up one spot — from third- to the fourth-worst — for its record of collisions involving senior pedestrians in 2009.


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