Siskiyou pedestrian lights still confuse some drivers

I drive Siskiyou Boulevard in Ashland almost daily, and I'm seeing a problem with the pedestrian lights in the area near Southern Oregon University. My issue isn't with the lights themselves, but drivers slamming on their brakes anytime the lights are activated by a pedestrian trying to cross Siskiyou.

Most drivers stop when the pedestrian hasn't yet reached the median between the north and southbound lanes. Are you required to stop if the pedestrian hasn't even reached the median to cross the lane in which you're driving?

— Kris K., Talent

You're not the only one who has dealt with over-cautious drivers on Siskiyou Boulevard, Kris.

Ashland police Sgt. Jim Alderman said minor accidents are plentiful in the area near SOU when drivers stomp on their brakes upon seeing the pedestrian lights flash.

The lights were installed in August 2009 through a joint effort by the city and SOU to make the crossings safer. A student died in 2008 after being struck by a car while crossing the road.

And while there hasn't been a pedestrian killed since the lights were installed, vehicles rear-ending each other has spiked, Alderman said.

"We are seeing these fender-benders because people are coming to sudden stops, even when the pedestrian hasn't reached the median," Alderman said.

In fact, an Ashland police patrol car bumped the rear of a vehicle there last week after a student driver locked the brakes at the light. No one was injured and no damage was reported to either car, Alderman said.

No one was cited in the accident. However, the same officer later that day responded to another fender-bender at the light in similar circumstances.

To answer your question, Kris, you are not required to stop until the pedestrian has reached the median to cross your lane of travel.

Alderman suggests driving the speed limit through the area, which is 25 mph, and keeping a lookout for pedestrians in the median. If you see someone there who wishes to cross your lane of travel, then stop. If you see a pedestrian crossing the opposite lanes on the way to the median, it's acceptable to continue through the lights as they flash.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to

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