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Orem police cite dozens of drivers in crosswalk sting

OREM — A week after an Orem boy died after being hit while in a crosswalk, police went undercover Thursday and found that a lot of drivers aren't following the law when it comes to pedestrians in crosswalks.

“I’ve been seeing a lot of people who are not yielding to pedestrians in the crosswalk,” Orem police officer Brian Luangsawasdi said. “The law states that when a pedestrian is in a crosswalk, the driver has to yield while the pedestrian is in their lane of travel.”

Police held several stings throughout the city. After just a few minutes of looking for drivers who weren’t following the crosswalk law, an officer working undercover at one location had a close call.

“I had a lady that nearly hit me right here in the crosswalk because she was paying more attention to the vehicle that was in front of her,” Luangsawasdi said, “and then as soon as she looked up and saw me right in front of her car, she made the ‘oh no' look on her face. And then she just kept turning and went right through."

Officers were watching nearby and when they saw a violation, they made a stop.

Police say drivers are often not paying attention, and it makes it very dangerous for pedestrians, even if they are in a crosswalk. They want drivers to focus on driving.

“They are on their cellphones or paying attention to the people in front of them,” Luangsawasdi said. "They are not looking for pedestrians, so we want to make sure that people are out here making good choices … and watching for people in the crosswalks.”

But it is not just drivers who have to follow the crosswalk laws.

“A pedestrian can't jump out and say, ‘I am in a crosswalk. I am safe.’ A pedestrian can be cited just as easy as the driver of a motor vehicle,” Luangsawasdi said.

Police ticketed 58 drivers Thursday, but they hope many more drivers learned to be more courteous to pedestrians in the crosswalk.

“We just want to make just sure that people are out here and watching these crosswalks because we don’t want anybody else hit,” the officer said. “We don’t want anybody hurt in the crosswalks anymore. I mean, it’s an easily avoidable thing that drivers just look up and pay attention to what’s in front of them.”

In 2015, the Utah Highway Safety Office reports there were 48 auto-pedestrian deaths in the state, up 11 fatalities from the year before. In the past two years, pedestrian deaths increased 60 percent in Utah.

The sting came a week after an 11-year-old Eric Longhurst was killed in a crosswalk. Longhurst and a friend were riding their scooters about 4 p.m. on March 2 when they attempted to cross 1600 North at Main Street in a crosswalk. Police say a man in his 30s driving a pickup truck attempted a left turn from Main Street onto 1600 North and hit the boy.

The boy suffered major trauma to his brain and was taken to Primary Children’s Hospital. He passed away the next day.

Tragically, the incident was not the first time the 11-year-old had been hit while crossing that street. In October 2014, he was on a bicycle crossing the same intersection when he was hit by a car making a turn. His injuries in that incident were minor.

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc