(California Highway Patrol officer Bryan Mutoza poses as a pedestrian on Portola Drive in Live Oak Wednesday as part of a CHP operation to heighten awareness to crosswalk safety. Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Pajaronian)

SOQUEL — California Highway Patrol officers stationed at three locations in mid-county Wednesday wrote out 34 citations to motorists who did not stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

That “pedestrian” was CHP officer Bryan Mutoza, who was acting as a decoy for a “pedestrian safety enforcement operation,” which might better be described as a crosswalk sting.

The locations were Soquel Drive and Hardin Way, Soquel Drive and Robertson Street and Portola Drive and 36th Avenue. 

During the operation, Mutoza dressed in plain clothes and pretended to be walking in a crosswalk. Meanwhile, three CHP officers waited in their cruisers for a driver to stop as required by law.

Or, not.

In fact, many people went through the crosswalk despite the fact that Mutoza was in it. In some instances, he said he was forced to jump out of the way.

According to California law, motorists must stop for anyone in a crosswalk, no matter where they are within the crossing.

Those that violate the law face a ticket that could cost more than $230, not including increases to insurance premiums.

“Pedestrian safety is a key issue in our community, and the CHP is committed to upholding pedestrian safety laws to protect our citizens,” CHP spokeswoman Trista Drake said.

According to Drake, drivers should pay attention and be on the lookout for pedestrians, and slow down in areas where pedestrians are likely to be.

In addition, motorists should never pass a car that is stopped for pedestrians. 

Pedestrians, meanwhile, should cross at the corner, at crosswalks or intersections wherever possible.

They should also look both ways for traffic before crossing, make eye contact with the driver, and make certain cars are yielding before crossing. 

Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

CHP Sgt. Grant Boles said the effort was sparked by a recent increase in pedestrian injuries and deaths.

The latest occurred on April 4, when Celestine Glover was seriously injured as she walked in a crosswalk on Airport Boulevard in Watsonville. 

“With all the recent distractions that people have in their vehicles, we thought it was important to remind people to look for pedestrians in crosswalks,” Boles said.

He added that the CHP will continue to do the crosswalk operations, about once a month.

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