January 31, 2012 in City

Patrols emphasize crosswalk awareness

Recent crashes, 1 fatal, involved pedestrians
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Crashes that hurt one man and killed another in Spokane last weekend occurred as local authorities are working to emphasize pedestrian safety to motorists.

Emphasis patrols today and next month in Cheney are part of an ongoing effort in Spokane County to reduce the number of pedestrians injured or killed by motorists each year.

A Cheney police officer in regular clothes will walk within crosswalks several times near First and D streets between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Three other patrols are scheduled for different areas of the city next month.

“We use it as an educational opportunity to make sure people really are being careful,” said Kim Papich, spokeswoman for the Spokane Regional Heath District, which sponsors the grant-funded patrols. “In Spokane, we have a big problem with failure to yield.”

Other law enforcement agencies in Spokane County conduct occasional emphasis patrols through a $200,000 grant from the Spokane Regional Transportation Council.

Pedestrians have the right of way at all intersections in Spokane, including those with no crosswalks.

A ticket for failing to yield to a pedestrian in Spokane County is $124. Pedestrians who don’t use marked or unmarked crosswalks can be fined $56.

But police say two motorists arrested on felony charges this weekend did more than just fail to yield the right of way.

Officers believe Hannah Kay Hahn, 21, and Candice Louise Wilson, 30, were intoxicated when they struck pedestrians in separate incidents Saturday.

A third drunken crash occurred as police were investigating Wilson’s crash: A drunken driver sideswiped Spokane police Officer Paul Taylor’s patrol car near Wall Street and Buckeye Avenue. Taylor avoided injury, but the crash damaged a door of the patrol car, he said. The motorist was arrested for drunken driving and hit-and-run.

Wilson, who has no criminal history, was released from jail after appearing in Superior Court on a vehicular assault charge.

Hahn left jail on bond over the weekend on a vehicular assault charge, but she now faces a vehicular homicide charge because the man she allegedly struck with her SUV, Dennis Burgess, 47, died from injuries suffered in the crash. Hahn also faces a charge of felony hit-and-run because she left the scene of the crash at Market Street and Providence Avenue, Taylor said. Hahn failed to show up for a Monday court appearance.

The Spokane Regional Heath District said about 20 pedestrians and bicyclists are struck each month in Spokane. Of the 997 pedestrian and bicyclist collisions that occurred in Spokane County between 2006 and 2009, 3 percent resulted in death, while 11 percent resulted in serious injury. Sometimes those crashes result in only a ticket for failure to yield to a pedestrian. But if police suspect the driver was intoxicated, driving recklessly or driving with a flagrant disregard for safety, felony charges can apply.

Deputies suspected that was the case when they stopped Hahn about 2:17 a.m. Saturday as she sped in an SUV north on Market near Hawthorne Road. Hahn told deputies she thought she hit someone with her car. Deputies found “some small bottles of alcohol” on her and say she smelled of intoxicants, according to court documents. The SUV’s windshield was broken and its front end and hood were damaged.

Police found Burgess unconscious in the street near Providence and Market with severe head trauma. He was pronounced dead at a hospital. Family said Burgess was a father of three and worked as a carpenter and landscaper.

Hospital staff obtained a blood sample from Hahn, but the results are not yet known.

Also on Saturday, about 9:42 p.m., a pedestrian was crossing Buckeye at Wall while southbound at or near a crosswalk when he was struck by a car driven by Wilson, police say. Wilson stayed at the scene, and police say she admitted to having “a drink” when she finished work about 5:30 p.m. Her blood-alcohol level registered at 0.149 percent during a Breathalyzer test, according to court documents.

The pedestrian, identified in documents as a man with the last name Donelson, suffered bleeding on his brain and remained hospitalized Monday.

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