JSO to crack down on pedestrians crossing illegally

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Pedestrian-involved crashes in Jacksonville remain a growing problem in the River City, and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office says it has a campaign to make sure people know the rules.

Just last Saturday, a 69-year-old woman was hit while crossing Blanding Boulevard walking toward a bus stop.

On Monday, Channel 4 caught at least three people illegally crossing near the intersection of 103rd Street and Wesconnett Boulevard on the Westside by not using a crosswalk. Those who cross are often just feet away from the crosswalk.

Victoria Isenhower is unfortunately very familiar with pedestrian deaths. Her best friend Kelsey Sluder was killed in a hit-and-run crash just weeks after her 21st birthday.

"It's been really, really hard," Isenhower said. "She was my best friend and she was so young and she had so much she wanted to do."

Feb. 15 will mark the three-year anniversary of Sluder's death. Isenhower said losing her best friend will never be easy, but she's found a way to turn it into something positive -- doing what she can to raise awareness.

"It can happen in a second, just a split second. That's all it takes to end someone's life," Isenhower said. "You just don't want to be the reason that someone's killed, and you just don't want that to happen, so it's important for both parties to be very aware."

Isenhower said drivers and pedestrians need to be cautious. Sluder was killed at the intersection of the busy Beach Boulevard and Palm Avenue, but pedestrian-involved crashes happen all over Jacksonville.

The JSO campaign "Alert Today Alive Tomorrow" is trying to prevent people from crossing roads illegally, and police say they will ticket pedestrians for doing so.

"Understand that regardless of who's at fault in a crash, the pedestrian is going to be the big loser," JSO spokesman Shannon Hartley said. "Use crosswalks when available, take that precautionary look, make sure you know where traffic is, what it's doing, try to make eye contact with any driver near or approaching an intersection before you cross into traffic."

Isenhower hopes JSO's campaign will help keep another family from having to unexpectedly mourn the loss of a loved one.

"They need to use a crosswalk always, it doesn't matter if you're running across real quick to get to your house or friend's house, it doesn't matter," Isenhower said. "Always use a crosswalk and be aware of your surroundings, especially if it's a busy road."

She said one of her future goals is to start talking to teenagers who are just getting their permits and licenses about the importance of being aware of pedestrians.

As for JSO ticketing when a pedestrian illegally crosses, police say depending on the officer, a person will get a warning or a citation, but that most importantly they will be educated on the dangers of improperly crossing the road.

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