‘Crosswalk Blitz’ results in citations for variety of violations

Sean C. Morgan

Sweet Home police stopped 30 drivers during a 3½-hour “Crosswalk Blitz” from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, at the intersection of 22nd and Main streets.

Officers continued traffic enforcement for 2½ hours following that period, conducting an additional six stops, from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Police officers issued a total of 28 citations and 16 warnings, said Sgt. Jason Van Eck. Some drivers were cited for multiple violations.

Police issued 16 citations and eight warnings for crosswalk violations, he said. “It was not just crosswalk violations.”

Police issued three citations for distracted driving, one for failure to wear a seatbelt and three citations and two warnings for passing a vehicle that was stopped for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, Van Eck said. One driver received a citation for running school bus lights.

Police also issued a warning and then a citation to one person for failure to yield to a vehicle, he said. The person did not cross at a crosswalk and created a traffic hazard. He was warned and then repeated the behavior.

Pedestrians have responsibility at crosswalks too, Van Eck said.

Under Oregon law, a pedestrian fails to yield when “suddenly leaving a curb or other place of safety and moves into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard” or not yielding at any other point than a marked crosswalk.

During the event, police put out two sets of cones along the highway. Vehicles outside of the coned areas were expected to stop when the department’s pedestrian, Police Chief Jeff Lynn, entered the crosswalk.

The first set of cones were based on a speed limit of 35 mph. The second pair of cones, which were set closer to the crosswalk, were based on the school zone speed limit of 20 mph.

“It was a very good, eventful afternoon,” Van Eck said. While the department received complaints about the operation, it had been publicized. Signs were out at the location for several days, and the police put word out on social media.

Two officers worked six hours of overtime on a matching grant by $1,000 Oregon Department of Transportation Oregon Impact grant, which required a match from the department, he said. The department included regular staff time with a third police officer, Van Eck, the police chief and a detective, as its match.

The speed limit and the stopping distance for the crosswalk changed during the event when the school zone went into effect, Van Eck said. “It was nice to see how many slowed down for the school zone.”

While there was some speeding, he said, drivers were a lot more compliant with the crosswalk when the school zone took effect.

Police officers were also able to educate students better about using crosswalks, Van Eck said.

“One young lady (just walked) and expected cars to stop for her, which could have led to a fatal outcome.”

Van Eck said he informed her that she needs to show intent when she’s preparing to cross, to make eye contact with drivers and make sure it’s safe to cross.

Pedestrians should walk to the very edge of the sidewalk and look at oncoming traffic, he said.

In a five-lane road, like Main Street, drivers in the first two lanes must stop for pedestrians. The opposite lanes must stop when the pedestrian is in the middle lane. Vehicles must remain stopped when adjacent to another vehicle stopped for a pedestrian. On the two-lane roads, like Long Street, Oregon law indicates drivers should remain stopped while a pedestrian is in a lane adjacent to the travel lane.

The primary focus of this operation was to raise crosswalk and pedestrian safety awareness, Van Eck said. The Sweet Home Police Department hoped to raise the attention of drivers and pedestrians through education and enforcement of the pedestrian right-of-way laws.

Drivers need to be cautious when approaching crosswalks, he said. Motorists must stop and yield to pedestrians who are waiting to cross or are crossing the roadway, Under ORS 811.028, a pedestrian is crossing the roadway in a crosswalk when any part or extension of the pedestrian, including but not limited to any part of the pedestrian’s body, wheelchair, cane, crutch or bicycle, moves onto the roadway in a crosswalk with the intent to proceed.

Officers on overtime also conducted a grant-funded seatbelt blitz from Aug. 18 to Sept. 3. The grant was for $1,500 from ODOT.

During that period, they issued 16 citations and 20 warnings. Of the citations issued, seven were for failure to use a seatbelt. One was for driving while suspended and eight were for various other violations.

On regular time during the same period, officers made one arrest for driving under the influence and issued 37 more citations on regular time. They gave 229 verbal warnings total, 37 for speeding.