Crosswalk stings a good start

The Ashland Police Department came out strong last week with a day of crosswalk enforcement targeting pedestrians and motorists operating in an unsafe or illegal manner on Siskiyou Boulevard near Southern Oregon University.

That some kind action was needed is not in question, and the work that day will no doubt save lives. Anyone on foot faced with the threat of a $97 fine for failing to yield to a car &

or $242 for drivers not yielding to pedestrians &

will be more careful when using the hectic boulevard.

The days following the February death of Gladys Jimenez saw near misses and at least one pedestrian struck by a car. It was clear that more of a wake-up call was needed. Southern Oregon University instituted a crossing flag program with debatable effectiveness. The city and university are also looking at more long-term solutions, but something was needed in the short term to forestall another tragedy.

The city and police department are right to step up enforcement, and we hope such operations will become a rite of spring to open the eyes of each fresh incoming class and motorists accustomed to driving all winter on fairly empty streets.

Every year &

and even every new term &

a new batch of walkers straggle across the boulevard to attend classes. A well-timed sting at the beginning of the term would serve the city and university well.

This is not the first time for increased enforcement &

years ago the city used pedestrian stings and Ashland police say they think the previous effort paid dividends for awhile. In recent years, Medford has on several occasions set up pedestrian stings, using an undercover officer to walk across busy streets near downtown and test drivers' awareness. By all accounts, the Medford effort has made the city a safer place for those on foot.

If we have a quibble with the Ashland effort, it's with the relatively heavy fines handed out to students near the SOU campus. A $97 fine will get the attention of anyone, but for a struggling student, $97 could be a budget-breaker.

We would have preferred that warnings be given out for the first day or two, followed by the fines. The act of being stopped by a police officer and handed a warning would probably make a serious impression and make it less likely that the heavy punishment would have to be levied. That, of course, would have to be followed up by real fines, to show the city means business.

The city and community have responded quickly and admirably to the tragedy on Siskiyou Boulevard. The lesson to take from previous attempts to increase safety for walkers is that such a response cannot be a short-term effort, but must become part of our everyday routine.

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