“Cross Street with Caution, Vehicles May Not Stop”
Gary Fanelli, Staff writer
Eight years after a Southern Oregon University student was struck and killed crossing Siskiyou Boulevard, an Ashland police officer says the crossing has had no further incidents reported.
Gladys Jimenez, a 22-year-old SOU student, was hit in 2008 at the Garfield Street crosswalk and died just a week later. According to the Mail Tribune, “Jimenez was walking away from the university and was in the lane closest to Garfield Street when she was struck. There were no vehicles in the adjacent lane to obscure the driver’s view.”
The city of Ashland installed these crossing lights in August 2010 following the death of Jimenez. These kinds of traffic lights give students the opportunity to cross the street without having to wait on the sidewalk for the traffic light to change. When one pushes the button, a voice announces to cross with caution because some vehicles may not stop.
Since many students at SOU cross Siskiyou Boulevard everyday to get to and from classes, I wanted to know if these lights were effective. I stood and observed students crossing at the intersection of Bridge Street and Siskiyou Boulevard for a while and after a few minutes, I noticed that students rarely check to see if any cars are barreling down the boulevard before stepping out. They kind of just expect that the cars will stop for them just because they pushed the buttons. In one case I witnessed a car screeching to a halt due to the abruptness of the situation.
Steve MacLennan, an Ashland Police Traffic Officer, said he was unable to say particularly if these crossing lights keep people safer. “When signs or lights like these are put up, people are going to see them for the first few months then forget about them. People need to remember that just because they push the button, it does not give them the right of way.”
Legally, cars can continue to drive when the button is pushed as long as there is not a pedestrian actively crossing. A pedestrian does not have the right of way until he/she has stepped into the crosswalk. “The purpose of these crossing lights is to alert drivers in order to give them ample time to see pedestrians and come to a stop”, said MacLennan. “Drivers need to take into account the speed they are going and the distance they are from the crossing to come to a complete stop. If drivers were to just slam on their brakes every time the button was pushed, there would be a lot of rear-end accidents.”