MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The University of Minnesota is studying crosswalk safety in the Twin Cities, and the results aren’t great so far.

Many pedestrians say they have issues crossing the street, including Gerel Halbert and Micaela Fuentes. Both have disabilities and live in St. Paul.

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“[Drivers] speed up when they see someone like [us],” Fuentes said.

Halbert says drivers also commonly stop in crosswalks when they’re waiting at traffic lights.

Nichole Morris, the director of the U’s HumanFIRST lab, is studying 32 Twin Cities crosswalks with her team: 16 in Minneapolis and 16 in St. Paul. Every week, they update signs at a handful of the crosswalks that show the percentage of drivers who stop for pedestrians.

The researchers attempt to cross the streets and count the number of cars that pass before they can.

“Sometimes it’s, you know, 20, 25 cars will go on by depending on how heavy traffic is, and we’ll just have to wait until we get a gap,” Morris said.

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(credit: CBS)

Not stopping for a pedestrian at a crosswalk is against the law in Minnesota. Yet in St. Paul, just over half of drivers usually stop, while the number dips to about 30% in Minneapolis.

“It makes me really concerned,” said Melissa Bauer, a Maplewood resident who walks often around St. Paul. “It makes me make choices about where I walk.”

Morris says high speeds are a problem for pedestrians in the Twin Cities because it makes it less likely drivers will stop. She says awareness is another problem. The researchers are experimenting with signage and markings that help with visibility.

“The difference in Minneapolis compared to St. Paul is Minneapolis hasn’t had a lot of initiatives around pedestrian safety and the Minnesota crosswalk law like St. Paul has,” Morris said.

Halbert says a button to activate flashing lights to alert drivers to pedestrians would make a real difference.

There have been 2,598 pedestrian crashes in the last five years in the Twin Cities — and more than 400 of those involved children.

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The HumanFIRST lab has created a safety pledge for pedestrians, drivers and cyclists. Click here for more information.

David Schuman