Hermiston police are cracking down on jaywalkers on Highway 395.
Police Chief Jason Edmiston said his department started a zero tolerance campaign for October to curtail pedestrians crossing the highway through town whenever or wherever they want. He warned jaywalkers should not expect mere warnings.
“When I say ‘zero tolerance,’ then enforcement is going to be the norm and education secondary,” he said.
He said this campaign is akin to Oregon’s emphasis on distracted driving. Jaywalkers can block traffic and worse, he said, and distracted pedestrians have walked into vehicles.
Edmiston said Hermiston police received several complaints about jaywalkers, primarily at the intersection with Highland Avenue and between Orchard and Jennie avenues. He also said he saw it for himself while off duty. He added Highway 395 carries a fair share of truck traffic through town, and “those vehicles don’t stop on a dime.”
Various Oregon statutes can apply to jaywalking, Edmiston explained. Crossing against a light in an intersection, for example, can result in a ticket for failure to obey a traffic control device, while walking into and blocking traffic can draw a disorderly conduct charge, which carries the threat of arrest. He said Hermiston officers are to double-check to make sure they apply the correct law depending on the circumstances.
“Our intent is not to increase arrests for disorderly conduct, but as written, it’s a tool we can use if the circumstances apply,” he said. “We want people to conform to the norms of society, and willy-nilly walking across a four-lane or a five-lane highway ... because you feel like it, is not conforming.”
Some residents might not like the crackdown, he said, but as Hermiston grows and new people come into the city, police need to continue enforcing the regulations and laws on the books. Edmiston said he anticipates the enforcement might generate complaints about jaywalking from other areas of town, but for now the focus is on Highway 395.