ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Don't say we didn't warn you.
If you're thinking about darting across the street in some of the busiest parts in St. Petersburg, you just might get a ticket.
The city says it’s completed its education campaign and the grace period for warnings has run out. Now, it is giving jaywalkers citations, hoping it may finally curb a deadly trend.
It didn’t take police long to spot folks like people like Zachary Bonsal, who trotted across 4th Street North near the Sunken Gardens. Jaywalking.
“I'm just over here doing a job and, you know, just wasn't thinking. My fault,” said Bonsal.
But that didn’t keep officers from writing him a ticket for $62.50.
“It's definitely going to hurt me. I won't be jaywalking again. Best believe that,” said Bonsal.
The problem, say police, is that people are paying a much higher price than that.
Last year, 14 people were struck and killed trying to dart across traffic in St. Petersburg alone. There have already been three more fatalities this year. And all three of those, say investigators, occurred outside the crosswalk.
Dave Dell was ticked off at his ticket. Despite weeks of warnings, he says had no idea police were conducting a crosswalk crackdown.
“I probably would've walked my butt right there, stand in line until they told me what to do,” said Dell.
But police say it’s almost impossible to have not heard about their effort in recent months.
“I think it would be pretty difficult for you to say that you haven't heard something in some form or fashion about what we're doing,” said Officer Bernart Cox.
Social media lit up with comments about the crackdown. A lot of you think this is just a way for the city to make money.
But Leisa took to Facebook calling jaywalkers “lazy.” And Bob said he watches people risk their lives rather than “walk the extra 200 yards to the crosswalk.”
Bonsal was only a couple of hundred feet from the nearest crosswalk.
“To be honest, I wasn't thinking, sorry. I apologize,” he said.
St. Pete has spent a lot of taxpayer money installing signs, flashing warning signals and even rearranging medians to protect jaywalkers from themselves.
But if that won't do it, officials hope the threat of $62.50 ticket will.
“You know, people don't need to be dying just to get across the street. No matter what reason it's for, whether it be the pedestrian or the driver,” said David Carter, who says thinks drivers also need to pay more attention to those actually using the crosswalk.
A recent study citing the most dangerous regions in the nation for pedestrians found Florida in the top seven positions before any other state was even mentioned, and the Tampa / St. Petersburg / Clearwater area was No. 7.
The ticketing campaign is being paid for with a grant from the University of South Florida and the Florida Department of Transportation.
The city plans to aggressively target jaywalkers all over St. Petersburg for the next six weeks.
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