This community saw two examples this week of people turning grief into action for the sake of public safety.
Earl and Sharon Mainwaring convinced the Hood River County Commission to adopt an ordinance authorizing immediate impoundment of vehicles used by street racing participants as well as spectators.
“Our greatest hope is that someone else doesn’t have to lose a loved one from an incident that never should have happened,” said Earl “Smokey” Mainwaring. The Mainwarings’ daughter, Trisha Ann Thornton, 19, was killed in January while riding in a car during a street race in Gresham. (Details on page A1).
The county’s prompt action came on the same day county officials attended the groundbreaking for the new Oregon Department of Transportation traffic light at Brookside and Eliot. Dollie Rasmussen responded to tragedy by launching a fundraising campaign after the deaths of her father-in-law, Lynn Rasmussen, and Viola Briggs, within one week of each other in a 12th Street crosswalk in May of 2000.
The Mainwarings formed Families Against Speeding Drivers and launched a campaign to get stiffer penalties not only for those racing but for those observing it.
The Mainwarings and Rasmussen deserve the community’s admiration for stepping forth for everyone’s sake at the same time they mourn loved ones. The 12th Street deaths happened in the heart of Hood River, while Trisha Ann Thornton’s death happened in the next county. It just shows the universality of hazard — the realization that this kind of tragedy can happen anywhere, to anyone. City administrator Dave Meriwether calls the new ordinance a “preventative measure to bring attention to what is a growing problem statewide.”
Now, the Hood River City Council should adopt the same type of law, in the interest of safety as well as uniformity.
It would be interesting to apply the same concept — holding spectators accountable — to another vehicle violation: why not fine the adult passengers, in addition to the driver, in a car carrying a child without a seat belt or safety seat? The passengers are going along with something they could stop.
If a friend, spouse or family member knew they would be held complicit it might mean far fewer kids sitting on laps, getting “buddy belted” or other infractions that threaten the kids’ safety.
Children riding without proper safety restraints remains a serious public health problem, right up there with speeding in its many forms. Children who are brought up to understand the need for such precautions are likely to become drivers who follow the rules.