September 09, 2001 11:00 pm

The recent crosswalk sting operation by the La Grande Police Department doesnt prove that it is safe to cross the street. The city crosswalk enforcement program, which was funded by grant money, created a predictable result that doesnt speak to the real issue of area motorists who are more interested in passing quickly through crosswalks than stopping when they see a pedestrian approach.

La Grande police made it simple for motorists to obey the law. They identified the crosswalk they were stopping drivers at with signs. They used the same plainclothes officers to walk back and forth, over and over. They made it so easy for drivers to recognize that a sting operation was under way, it is surprising that any driver received a ticket or a warning.

Spend some time at crosswalks all over La Grande and what youll find are impatient drivers who are more interested in rushing to their destinations than watching out for pedestrians. Most local walkers know that you will have to wait until the vehicle passes by before you can venture safely into a crosswalk. And if one driver stops to let a pedestrian cross, he must walk tentatively across the street fearing that the driver coming from the opposite direction will mow him down.

Pedestrians might be safer on main downtown streets like Adams or Washington avenues following the enforcement effort in those areas. But what about the scores of other intersections in town? Motorists are risking life and limb if they dare step in front of drivers.

With school back in session, the danger of serious injury climbs higher because now you have children who are oblivious to their surroundings while walking home and drivers who are equally inattentive when they roll through crosswalks. Another problem is that many of the students driving to the high school exceed the speed limit and mimic their parents, using a carefree attitude toward others who are out walking.

The police departments sting operation only demonstrates that when officers clearly mark an area warning drivers that they could get a ticket for violating Oregon laws concerning pedestrians, then 87 percent of those drivers dont comply with the law. It doesnt make walking around La Grande much safer.

We wonder. Whats so difficult about stopping for a pedestrian at a crosswalk? La Grande drivers undoubtedly are some of the unsafest ones around.

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