City Seeks to End Pedestrian Accidents By Outlawing Pedestrian Traffic at "Accident Hotspots"
MERRIAM, KS - A news story reports that the City of Merriam is considering a new city ordinance that would ban pedestrians from sitting, standing, or being in the median of nine major intersections to reduce pedestrian accidents. Merriam city officials are considering new laws to prohibit pedestrians from loitering, panhandling, standing, sitting, or otherwise being in nine major intersections to improve driver and pedestrian safety.
According to Police Chief Darren McLaughlin, the nine intersections in question make up over 50% of the city's pedestrian and traffic accidents annually.
Chief McLaughlin believes that texting or other distracted driving are the primary causes of pedestrian accidents. Chief McLaughlin also stated that the increase in pedestrians hanging out on medians, including people who are soliciting food or money, creates another layer of distraction for drivers. Chief McLaughlin thinks that by prohibiting pedestrians from hanging out in the medians, these accident hotspots would have fewer accidents. The Police Chief stated that it is very unsafe for pedestrians to be in these medians, and it is his position that these nine intersections are just not safe areas for pedestrians.
According to Merriam city documents, a violator of the ordinance could face a jail sentence of up to 30 days and a fine of up to $499.00. Law enforcement officers will begin the enforcement of the ordinance in phases. The first phase would include a written warning and educating violators.
The nine intersections that are under consideration for the new ordinance include:
- I-35 and Shawnee Mission Parkway (784 accidents)
- Johnson Drive and I-35 (454 accidents)
- 75th Street and I-35 (435 accidents)
- 67th Street and I-35 (338 accidents)
- I-35 and Antioch Road (309 accidents)
- Shawnee Mission Parkway and Antioch Road (291 accidents)
- Antioch Road and Johnson Drive (136 accidents)
- 75th Street and East Frontage Road (124 accidents)
- Shawnee Mission Parkway and Mastin Drive (123 accidents)
According to City Attorney Ryan Denk, his opinion is that the city council ordinance does not violate a citizen's First Amendment rights as long as the ordinance "focuses on time, place, and manner and does not restrict content, such as panhandling."
Councilmember Whitney Yadrich stated that she sees the new ordinance as an ethical and moral dilemma, not only a public safety item. She said that she does not want the city to have an ordinance that restricts panhandling in city medians, including the nine intersections. She also hopes that if a proposal, such as this one, moves forward, resources would be provided to panhandlers to help them with the changes.
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