Crosswalk stings return

Ashland police are in talks with Southern Oregon University officials to conduct crosswalk stings after two students were struck by cars on Siskiyou Boulevard during the first week of school. The talks began before the accidents occurred, Deputy Police Chief Rich Walsh said.

The two incidents "could be just an aberration," he said, "but then again, on the other hand you've got to take a look at it and ask, 'Okay, do we need to put more enforcement out there and bring more attention out there?"

The first accident occurred around — p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 25, resulting in a broken hip for SOU transfer student Michael Emmert on his second day of classes.

Early Saturday morning on Sept. 29, SOU freshman Gavin McGowan said he was walking along the bicycle lane of Siskiyou Boulevard when he was struck by a car driven by another student who had been drinking.

Walsh said the upcoming stings would likely be a smaller scale than previous operations because of the manpower required to conduct them. Previous stings conducted in 2003 and 2004 along Siskiyou Boulevard at Bridge Street and Normal Street netted between nine and 24 citations each. Police are considering holding more stings along Siskiyou near SOU, along Highway 66 and in the downtown area.

"What really amazes me about the sting is that when we put the stings on, even though they're advertised and they're marked very well, people still violate the law, and we still write tickets," Walsh said.

So far in 2007, nine pedestrians have been hit by a car, four with injury, according to police. Thirteen people were struck in 2006, and six in 2005.

The city is also studying ways to increase education about safe pedestrian crossing, said Jim Olson, staff liaison to the traffic safety commission.

"A lot of it is just paying attention," he said. "I think predominately drivers are fairly good about watching for pedestrians, but it just takes one."

In some cases, it can be the pedestrian who isn't paying attention, he said, and more communication between drivers and pedestrians is needed.

"They've got to share some responsibility," he said. "Along SOU, a lot of students don't use crosswalks either. At least when they don't use a crosswalk, they're a little bit more observant and they just run across. It just means students crossing from all sections there."

In McGowan's case, his friend Teal Gordon saw the car approaching but wasn't concerned at first because they were not trying to cross the street.

"I looked over at Gavin because I saw this car coming over," Gordon said. "It looked like it was about to pull over to talk to us. That's what I thought was happening."

Instead, McGowan ended up on the windshield and then unconscious on the ground.

"The one thing that I would like to say is that in the evening hours people need to be cautious and aware of where they're walking, because people do drive under the influence," Walsh said. "You just need to make yourself aware."

As for McGowan, he escaped with minor injuries and an unforgettable night.

"What a way to start off my freshman year, huh?" he said.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or . To post a comment on this story, go to .

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