West Jordan Police Department
West Jordan police officer Jay Powell is nearly hit by a car in a crosswalk. Other officers pulled over drivers who failed to yield.

It's one of a parent's worst nightmares: getting a call that your child has been hit by a car.

On May 31, 2007, Charity Lighten received that call. Her son Lawson, then 9, was riding his bicycle across a crosswalk at 7400 South and 4800 West at about 5 p.m. when he was struck by a vehicle.

The car in the lane nearest the curb had stopped. But the driver in the next lane had turned for a second after being distracted by her daughter in the back seat, said Charity Lighten. She did not see Lawson and drove through the crosswalk, striking the young boy and throwing him nearly 60 feet off his bike.

Today, Lawson, whom his mother calls her "little miracle," is fully recovered and about to start Riverton Elementary School. Although physically he is fine, Charity Lighten said her son is still hesitant to ride a bike by himself.

On Monday, West Jordan police returned to the crosswalk where Lawson was hit to conduct a crosswalk safety enforcement operation. Like other police agencies in the valley have done recently, undercover officers walked back and forth across the street in the crosswalk, pulling over those who failed to yield to them.

Monday's effort was about education, said West Jordan Police Sgt. Greg Butler. But citations were issued to motorists who "just don't get it," he said.

In one case Monday morning, a woman who had just blown by the undercover officer was pulled over by a uniformed officer waiting down the street. The woman felt she hadn't done anything wrong and unleashed an angry tirade full of profanities at the officer, Butler said. Once the officer was done writing a ticket, the woman turned around and drove back through the crosswalk again to get in a few final words, and hand gestures, with the undercover officer, he said.

Monday's enforcement effort was possible due to a grant from the Utah Department of Health, Butler said. Most local police departments lack the resources to conduct such extensive proactive operations, he said. But in a time that most roads are filled to capacity with cars every morning and afternoon, and with the start of school for most districts around the corner, Butler said now is a good time to remind both motorists and pedestrians to watch out for each other.

In Utah, an average of 40 people are killed and 1,000 injured in auto-pedestrian accidents, he said.

Charity Lighten was at Monday's saturation effort to show her support to police. She also wanted to let others know that when a child or anyone is hit while crossing the street, it changes the lives of not only the victim's family, but the driver's as well.

"In just one split second this could change your entire life. No one prayed harder for our son that night than the driver (who hit him)," she said.

During Monday's four-hour enforcement effort, 44 cars were stopped for failing to yield to pedestrians. Each motorist got an information packet on crosswalk safety, but 16 also received citations. Police discovered one man had warrants and took him into custody.


E-mail: preavy@desnews.com