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Police to focus efforts on crosswalk safety

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After an injury collision involving a horse-drawn carriage Saturday night, and with the holidays fast approaching, Hot Springs police say they plan to focus enforcement efforts on crosswalks and traffic violations, especially in the downtown area, to keep everyone safe.

"We want to remind everyone to slow down and pay attention and remember the traffic laws," Cpl. Joey Williams, the department's public relations officer, told The Sentinel-Record Wednesday. "There's a lot of traffic out, and a lot of people are coming to Hot Springs for tourism and shopping and the holidays in general."

A Bradley woman, Mary Spruell, 79, was seriously injured around 9 p.m. Saturday in the downtown area when a horse-drawn carriage she was riding in was rear-ended by a vehicle that then fled the scene. Spruell, who was thrown from the carriage, has been moved out of the intensive care unit at CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs and was in stable condition as of Wednesday, Williams said.

A second passenger, Allison Spruell, 23, also of Bradley, received minor injuries and was treated and released Saturday night, he said, noting they have identified a person of interest in the incident, which is still under investigation.

During the holidays, not only is vehicle traffic on the rise but so is pedestrian traffic, especially in the downtown area, Williams said.

"We're going to be out looking for DWIs, distracted drivers, speeders, etc.," he said, noting that distracted drivers are not necessarily people texting. "It could be having a pet in your lap, eating a sandwich, putting on makeup. I see it every day. Someone will be putting on mascara and eating an egg McMuffin. How are you driving?"

Williams stressed a big part of the increased enforcement will be targeting crosswalks. "We're seeing an increase in people disregarding crosswalks. Under Arkansas law, if a person is in a marked crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk that's at an intersection, drivers have to yield to them," he said, noting the minimum fine for failure to yield to a pedestrian is $185.

"Drivers need to be aware and slow down and pay attention," he said, noting motorists and pedestrians should be extra vigilant in low light or nighttime conditions.

Williams also stressed that pedestrians need to use marked and designated crosswalks and noted under the law if a pedestrian is crossing in an area that is not a crosswalk they have to yield to vehicular traffic.

"There are plenty of crosswalks downtown. There is absolutely no reason not to use a crosswalk downtown. I saw a man and woman darting across in an unmarked area the other day and asked him why they didn't use a crosswalk. He asked where one was and there was a crosswalk literally a few feet away."

Williams said he was downtown earlier in the day and "there were people everywhere -- 12:30 p.m. on a Wednesday and downtown was packed. We want everyone to enjoy the Christmas season and not be lying in a hospital because they've been hit by a car."

He said over the next few days, officers would start focused enforcement at crosswalks and noted it could be anywhere in the city, not just downtown. "We may be at a different location every day," he said. "Any designated crosswalk in the city. We're not looking to write a bunch of tickets right before the holidays, but we want everybody to be safe. This will be a zero tolerance enforcement."

Local on 12/06/2018

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