Lighted crosswalk on G Street does not guarantee safety

Motorists should be aware of rules

abutt@mercedsunstar.comMay 28, 2012 

Josie Moreno walks a few miles each day in her neighborhood around West 22nd Street in North Merced each morning.

On a recent day last week, Moreno had to cross the traffic-heavy G Street using a lighted pedestrian crosswalk near West 23rd Street. On that day, she crossed safely with barely any cars getting in the way.

But usually, the 45-year-old said, the cars are going "pretty fast." She said it can be a dangerous situation when she has her nieces and nephews in tow. "I've seen cars not stop when it's lit," she said.

A pedestrian sign, which lights up when someone presses a button to cross the street, has been the concern of some residents who say it is still unsafe to cross because vehicles don't see the flashing lights and don't stop.

Besides signs warning motorists of the crosswalk ahead, there are also yellow flashing lights embedded in pavement on either side of the crosswalk. All the lights activate when the button is pressed.

Earlier this month Mike Ortiz, who works at Baby Boyz Custom auto shop on G Street, said he saw a toddler get hit. "It's dangerous," he said. "I think they should put in a stoplight or a stop sign."

Lt. Bimley West, the Merced Police Department's spokesman, said a collision between a toddler and a vehicle did occur earlier this month at G Street and West 23rd Street.

The toddler, who was with an adult and two other children, ran away from the group as they neared the other side of the street and was struck by a vehicle that didn't stop at the crosswalk. The child was taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries, West said.

Despite the incident at that lighted crosswalk, he said the situation could have happened anywhere in the city. He stressed that drivers should be aware of their surroundings.

"Pedestrians have the right of way in the crosswalk," he said.

Meanwhile, he said, pedestrians should not allow their children to run ahead and should keep a close eye on them or hold their hands.

Ken Elwin, interim city engineer, said the vehicles should see advance warning signs on the road that say "crosswalk ahead."

"Once someone presses the button, the signs come on for the advance warning," Elwin said. "We have the lights, (which) grab the drivers' attention to say 'Hey, there's something up ahead and be looking out for something.' "

He said when people are jaywalking on a street, they are more likely to pay attention to vehicles. On marked crosswalks, pedestrians may have a false sense of security that they can walk and cars won't hit them.

"The drivers are supposed to stop according to law, but sometimes they don't stop," Elwin said.

He said people need to understand the law. "When somebody is at the crossing, you (the vehicle) have to stop," he said.

He said the city doesn't typically put stop signs on arterial roads or main roads.

But even with stoplights, he said, people can drive through them and hit someone.

"It's all up to the driver and his attention to what's happening in front of him in the road," he said.

Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or abutt@mercedsunstar.com.

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