A wake-up call for Ashland

The accident that critically injured a Southern Oregon University student last week should be a wake-up call for the city of Ashland.

Siskiyou Boulevard is a lovely, tree-lined thoroughfare with landscaped center islands, but it can be extremely dangerous for those pedestrians who choose to cross where there are no signals to stop traffic. Gladys Jimenez, who was struck Wednesday evening as she crossed Siskiyou at Garfield, is the third SOU student to be struck by a vehicle this school year.

The obvious solution is to install traffic lights, but that isn't necessarily easy to accomplish. There are four unregulated crosswalks on that stretch of Siskiyou, and forcing traffic to stop at all four probably doesn't make sense.

But there are steps that can be taken short of new signals that would improve pedestrain safety. The first is for the police department to conduct pedestrian "sting" operations, in which an officer in plain clothes repeatedly crosses the street and nearby patrol officers stop and ticket motorists who fail to stop.

Such operations have been used to great effect in Medford recently. Medford residents who walk have noticed that more drivers are paying attention to pedestrians and stopping for them.

Ashland performed such operations in 2003 and 2004. Perhaps it's time to revive the practice.

Another potential improvement could be flashing lights embedded in the pavement, activated by the person waiting to cross, or flashing yellow lights overhead that remind motorists to watch for pedestrians.

Certainly pedestrians have a responsibility to be aware of traffic and to use common sense when stepping into traffic, making sure drivers have room to stop for them.

But pedestrians are the vulnerable half of this equation. When a vehicle and a human body attempt to share the same space, the vehicle wins every time.

All of these solutions cost money. But if safety improvements prevent even a single person from being struck by a vehicle, they are well worth the investment.

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