PLATTSBURGH — In 2013, University Police issued 681 vehicle and traffic tickets, including 148 for using an electronic device, whether for a cellphone call or texting while behind the wheel.
“We were seeing a lot of distracted drivers,” University Police Assistant Chief Jerry Lottie said.
The time drivers have their eyes off the road while responding to a text or even checking their phone can be enough to cover the length of a football field, he said.
Evaluation of distracted driving and other statistics led to the department’s creation of an effort dubbed the Crosswalk Safety Traffic Enforcement Program (CrosSTEP) to educate both motorists and pedestrians.
The hope is to diminish the number of accidents and close calls around campus.
CrosSTEP is a three-phase effort, Lottie said.
The first is educational.
Here, University Police are working to educate drivers to keep their eyes on the road at all times and pedestrians to check the street and wave before crossing.
They are concentrating their efforts on the campus residential areas around Rugar Street and are asking for the assistance of resident assistants in getting the word out.
A large chunk of the students here come not only from other states, but also other countries, Lottie said. And sometimes the traffic norms are different from one place to the other.
Woon Kheng Tan, from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is one of SUNY Plattsburgh’s resident assistants.
He said having a program like CrosSTEP can only help the campus community.
“I feel like back home it is crazy; people don’t care as much about it (traffic safety),” he said.
“No matter how much you try to educate them, they don’t do anything about it.
“I think Plattsburgh is already doing a great job with it. Here, people stop for students crossing the roads.”