After Diana Cristales-David saw a 15-year-old boy’s leg trapped beneath a car on the Coon Street crosswalk in Kings Beach Saturday and listened to his mother’s sobs, she knew she had to do something besides the immediate help she offered the teen.
Seeing the crowd of people gathered for the Mexican Independence Day street fair, she made an impromptu decision that she hopes will put an end to a rash of pedestrian collisions in the community ” she began passing around a petition.
Soon more than 100 people had signed the papers, which call for a stoplight at Bear Street.
The petition demonstrates a growing frustration in Kings Beach with pedestrian crossings that residents say they feel are dangerous and not being addressed. Some wonder if more people will have to be injured or killed on Kings Beach crosswalks before a solution is in place.
“I just don’t want to ever see what I just saw,” said Cristales-David of the collision that left the teen with a lacerated foot. “Why would one of our children have to die [before something is done]?”
The danger of pedestrian crossings in Kings Beach has been chronicled by a series of accidents in 2006. In January, Tahoma resident Linda Fernandez and her boyfriend Jeremy Virgo were thrown into the air by a Honda driven by Kevin Gorchinski while walking in a crosswalk on Fox Street and Highway 28.
Fernandez died and Virgo was injured.
In July, two other pedestrians crossing near Bear Street were struck and injured by a passing vehicle. One was taken by helicopter from the scene with serious injuries while the other pedestrian was driven by ambulance to the hospital.
While locals have different ideas about what is the best solution to the dangerous crossings ” some say put in a roundabout, while others say the highway must be cut to three lanes ” Cristales-David said she just wants to see residents kept safe while crossing the street.
“What I want and what these parents want is for their children to be able to cross the street safely,” she said.
Kings Beach Sylvia Doignon, who heard the boy scream on Saturday as he was hit by the car, and rushed to help, said the danger on Highway 28 often comes from stopped cars blocking the view of the adjacent driver headed the same direction.
“The crosswalks are very obvious to cars, but if you come really fast, and there is a car already stopped … they don’t see that a pedestrian is trying to cross and the pedestrian gets hit,” Doignon said.
Both Cristales-David and Doignon said it is easy to mistake a vehicle stopped for a pedestrian for a vehicle that is stopped waiting to make a left turn.
The California Department of Transportation is the authority that determines whether a stoplight, stop sign or roundabout will be added in Kings Beach.
Caltrans spokeswoman Shelly Chernicki said the state has had a project in the works to put a stoplight at Bear Street, but that the local agencies cannot agree on the need for a stoplight there, rather than a roundabout or other project.
“What’s holding it up is that everyone cannot come to an agreement,” said Chernicki.
As with any other intersection, Caltrans determines the need for stoplights in Kings Beach by calculating traffic volumes, the number of pedestrians and the history of accidents at crossings.
Meanwhile, California Highway Patrol officials said they have beefed up their patrols for speeding and crosswalk violations in North Tahoe.
“More of what we do is try to catch people who violate crosswalk rules,” said California Highway Patrol Officer Joe Edwards.
Edwards said his agency is trying to get locals to obey traffic laws and drive safely. In a count of all traffic accidents for 2004 the CHP found locals, not visitors, caused a majority of the accidents.
Meanwhile, Kings Beach residents are voicing the opinion that something has to be done to keep pedestrians safe, before another tragic incident occurs.
“That shows that citizens in this community do care,” said Cristales-David of the signatures she gathered acknowledging the dangerous crosswalk situation, and calling for a change.
She said she believes the petition will make a difference.
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