Undersheriff stops crosswalk tragedy

An off-duty law enforcement officer took quick action on Jan. 12 to stop a pedestrian accident in a marked crosswalk.

In the early afternoon of Jan. 12, Hood River County Undersheriff Dwayne Troxel was in his private vehicle, idling behind a stopped pickup at a pedestrian crossing on 12th Street, just south of the May Street intersection. With the two vehicles blocking the right lane, Troxel said a young boy, about seven years of age, began to push his tricycle across the one-way street.

At that point Troxel took a quick look in the rear view mirror and noticed an oncoming vehicle in the left lane that appeared to be traveling between 25-30 miles per hour. It quickly became apparent to Troxel that the driver of that car was not aware of the pedestrian presence and did not intend to stop.

Just as the boy entered the left side of the roadway Troxel blasted his car horn and lurched his automobile toward the other lane. He said the surprised woman behind the wheel then slammed on her brakes and slid almost a vehicle length into the middle of the crosswalk, stopping just feet from the child.

"This could have ended in a tragedy," said Troxel. "Hood River drivers using these one-way streets need to be alert and follow the law which requires them to stop at a crosswalk or intersection anytime the car in the other lane stops."

Last year the Hood River City Police Department held eight crosswalk traffic crackdowns within a two-month period. The focus on pedestrian safety was launched after two Hood River residents were struck and killed by vehicles in May of 2000. Viola Briggs and Lynn Rasmussen both died from injuries during the same week after being hit by motorists while attempting to cross 12th Street, also known as Highway 281, near the Hood River Shopping Center.

Because of community outcry over the two deaths, Hood River was one of two cities in the state chosen to receive a $4,000 public education grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation. During the crackdown between December of 2000 and February of 2001, 180 vehicles were stopped and 82 ticketed for failure to yield to a pedestrian. An additional 98 citations were given for other offenses, such as driving while suspended, passing a vehicle stopped at a crosswalk, failure to use seat belts, driving uninsured, expired vehicle license, failure to carry registration or change of address and speeding.

The Hood River County Sheriff's Office also received a $5,200 state grant last year to help train motorists to slow down on city streets. The funding was used to purchase an Electronic Speed Trailer, a self-contained unit that is portable and can be set up along area roadways to give approaching drivers a reading of their current rate of travel. That equipment was used frequently near the deadly 12th Street crosswalk last year to remind drivers that ODOT had lowered the speed limit from 35 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour in that vicinity.

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