Citizens of Battle Ground got a surprise visit from La Center and Vancouver police and the Washington State Patrol Wednesday of last week when they joined forces with the Battle Ground police department for a day of pedestrian safety zone emphasis, otherwise known as a Target Zero Task Force.
The day was intended to create awareness around pedestrian-involved traffic violations and to re-emphasize the police force's presence in this matter. It was put on through a partnership between the Battle Ground Police Department and Target Zero and was funded by a $5,000 grant from Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC).
Target Zero is a branch of WTSC, whose goal is to end traffic fatalities and serious injuries on Washington roads by 2030.
Within the first 15 minutes at their first location, the officers had made five stops.
The primary areas of focus were Old Town Battle Ground, the North Parkway Avenue school zone and the state Route 502 and 503 intersection.
The first focus point was the crosswalk off SW Fourth Avenue, just west of the Chevron and Rusty Glamour on Main Street. When a car approached, a plain-clothed officer would step into the crosswalk and would report to the other officers in the staging area if a car did not yield properly. They would then wave them into a designated area.
The team of officers did this at the 502/503 intersection — where Wilson said the primary problem was drivers not stopping for red lights while turning eastbound onto Main Street — and at North Parkway Avenue in Battle Ground High School’s school zone.
The day’s goal was to cut down on the number of pedestrian-vehicle collisions in Clark County, which has the second most pedestrian-involved injuries and fatalities in the state behind King County, according to Sgt. Tim Wilson of BGPD.
Or, as Battle Ground Mayor Philip Johnson put it, a “get out of my way!” attitude.
Not surprisingly, Wilson said handheld technology is a major contributor to distracted driving. He even referred to times he’s been stuck in traffic while off duty where he’s looked around and saw people leaning their tablets against their steering wheel and watching something.
Wilson said it has been hard to monitor and enforce, given that although drivers can’t hold their phones to their ears and can’t text, they can use them for speakerphones and can dial a number on them. Determining whether or not someone is texting or dialing is almost impossible. Officers must first pull them over and hope they admit to texting, instead of dialing, before giving them a citation.
But Wilson sees hope in Sen. Ann Rivers' distracted driving bill, which would completely outlaw any handheld devices. The bill has passed the state Senate.
The final count for the day was 86 violator contacts, 28 tickets, 49 warnings and three suspended driving arrests.