- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2002

Tom Rosenblatt was traveling south on Georgia Avenue yesterday when he was flagged down by Montgomery County police for failing to yield to a pedestrian using a crosswalk. For Mr. Rosenblatt and more than four dozen other motorists yesterday, the lunchtime drive was more eventful than they had planned.

County police ticketed 56 drivers yesterday in the 11600 block of Georgia Avenue between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. in the second recent sting operation aimed at enforcing local traffic laws.

The "Pedestrian Crosswalk Safety Enforcement Initiative" employs plainclothes police officers to cross a designated crosswalk, with other officers looking on to flag down violating motorists. Yesterday, officers wearing bright orange T-shirts repeatedly walked across Georgia Avenue in front of Good Counsel High School, issuing 49 citations for failing to yield to someone in a crosswalk. Police issued eight citations for other traffic violations. And after running a check on the license plates of one stopped car, police learned the car was stolen.

"We're not trying to deceive the drivers. We are purposely in bright clothes," said police spokeswoman Lucille Baur. "We don't want to put the average pedestrian in harm's way."

Some offenders, including Mr. Rosenblatt, 60, from Rockville, pleaded their case with officers. Mr. Rosenblatt said a car in the lane to his left was obstructing his view of the pedestrian and pointed to instances of police flagging down some offenders while ignoring others as examples of the program's lack of fairness.

"I don't think they are accomplishing what they intended to," Mr. Rosenblatt said. "It's not going to work. It's going to fail, no ifs, ands or buts. It's going to fail. It's just unfair."

Miss Baur said negative reactions were expected.

"We certainly understand there will be some motorists upset with it," she said. "But if they have a friend or know someone who is hit by a car, they would understand."

Lt. Skip Lanham said 14 pedestrians were killed in Montgomery County last year, and seven have been killed already this year. He said the number of officers involved with yesterday's sting, about 25, was justified.

"I don't know what's more serious than when someone dies," he said. "Many of the pedestrian fatalities could have been prevented."

Officers said the reaction from the cited motorists varied.

"Some people have been OK. Some have been upset," Officer Orpheus Pierce said. "Most people don't seem to know the rules."

One motorist, Nelson Diaz, 17, of Silver Spring, said he wasn't upset about receiving the ticket.

"I guess it's a good thing," Mr. Diaz said. "I used to go to [Good Counsel], and we had two people get hit by cars. I know pedestrians have the right of way, but I think they need to educate people better."

According to Montgomery County law, motorists must come to a full stop for any pedestrian using a crosswalk. Yesterday's citations are "must appear in court" violations, and carry a maximum fine of $500 and two months in jail.

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