“Houston…we have a problem.”
That infamous line uttered in the movie Apollo 13 could aptly describe the situation facing Oakdale when it comes to pedestrians and vehicles.
The issue has intensified with the recent rash of pedestrians that have been mowed down by passing motorists while crossing the street, several of whom were minors.
So when Oakdale Police initiated a crosswalk sting on a busy Thursday afternoon, March 10 on East F Street at Sixth Avenue, it came as no surprise that within an hour nearly 30 people were cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk; however, the knowledge was bittersweet.
“It’s hard to call something a success when so many people were cited,” admitted Sgt. Kerri Redd. “But there is a direct correlation between the amount of accidents and the number of citations given in an area. Hopefully, it makes people more aware. Getting the word out there makes it a success.”
Perhaps, but as evidenced by a recent police dispatch entry where a motorist admitted she didn’t care about the sting and would just take the citation, there seems to be a bad attitude behind the wheel.
Last year 10 people were struck by moving vehicles as they attempted to cross the street in designated crosswalks. Some of those people suffered severe, life-changing injuries.
And Thursday’s event was a snapshot of just how unaware drivers have become as the Police Department Explorers used in the sting were nearly hit several times by motorists who failed to yield.
One person cited said he’d seen the teen in the crosswalk but thought he’d stopped in the middle to let him pass. The officer explained to him that, no, the teen had been trying to cross the road. The man shrugged, saying, “I didn’t know what he was trying to do. I guess it wasn’t clear.”
Police said it’s hard to believe that someone could be issued a California Driver’s License, yet not know what it means when someone is standing in a crosswalk in the middle of the road. But apparently, there are a few.
There were four officers involved in the sting and there were more violators than the operation had officers to issue citations.
The saying, “It was like shooting fish in a barrel” seemed appropriate as there were simply too many to keep up with and there were plenty to choose from.
“If the pedestrians hadn’t been paying attention, they would’ve been hit,” Redd said. “If we’d had more officers we would’ve been writing even more citations. We couldn’t keep up.”
The sting illuminated the issue, creating data that will be used for the purposes of procuring traffic grants.
While some may have been disgruntled to receive the citation, it’s important that drivers pay attention to the road.
“This goes to prove we’re not just picking on people,” Redd said. “They’re just not stopping.”
Next on the agenda, police will conduct a reverse pedestrian sting to catch people who are crossing dangerously without regard to their safety and the rules of the road.
“They’re just as much to blame. You have to exercise due caution when you step out onto the road,” Redd said. “It’s important for you to be a defensive pedestrian.”