Hit-and-run highlights dangerous intersection

14-year-old girl struck in crosswalk at Avenue 196 and Rd. 230 on Feb. 12 driver still unidentified, resident requesting additional safety

@TheSunGazette

STRATHMORE – Michelle Lamb, who lives on the corner of Ave. 196 and Rd. 230 has become accustomed to the cacophony of speeding cars, screeching tires and the occasional car on car collision. She even admits at times she has had to plug her ears and turn away when she sees cars close to crashing into people even during the day. On the night of Feb. 12 while watching TV she became keenly aware of a noise she hadn’t heard before: a car striking a girl in the cross walk.

According a California High Patrol collision report, the 14-year-old girl was crossing Ave. 196, a four lane main thoroughfare through Strathmore. Despite activating the installed safety lights that illuminate the cross walk making pedestrians more visible at night, a described 4-door small sedan hit her while heading east through Rd. 230. The girl was sent through the air and landed in the curb where the lights would still illuminate her. The CHP collision report noted the driver, described as a male, stopped briefly before speeding off. The girl was airlifted to Kaweah Delta Hospital with major injuries.

“I heard a very loud thud and when I looked out the curtain and saw the crosswalk light flashing, I knew what had happened and saw a person’s body in the gutter against the curb across the street,” Lamb said in an email to Kuyler Crocker, her representative on the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, the day after the incident. “The sad thing is that it was a good thing she landed there to due to the poor lighting and the way people race through town not paying attention she would have been ran over.”

Lamb urged for street lights in the area, reducing the speed limit from 45 miles per hour and an additional law enforcement presence in the area. On Feb. 20 Lamb says there were two more accidents at and near the intersection. One was a block down between an ambulance en route and a car on Feb. 15 and then another on Feb. 18 when one car pulled off the road and onto the sidewalk coming within two feet of Lamb’s fence, in order to avoid hitting two boys on bicycles. Lamb claims the vehicles left skid marks on the road that were 75 feet long.

And there is additional history to Ave. 196 intersection as well. In 2013 a 12-year-old girl hit a man in her parents 1999 Mitsubishi Galant while they were shopping at Guadalajara Market. While alone in the car, which was parked along the north curb of Ave. 196, the girl observed an open parking space directly in front of the store. According to the CHIP collision report, the girl slid into the drivers seat and accelerated forward toward a nearby truck. Standing in front of the Ford truck was David Villareal of Orosi, who was facing away from the oncoming car while he was attempting to pull equipment from the bed of the truck. The 12-year-old attempted to brake when she noticed her speed and instead hit the gas pedal. The car then struck the 43-year-old Villareal in the back of the legs pinning him between the two vehicles.

Crocker, who is a Strathmore native and current resident, responded to Lamb’s initial email after the girl was hit on Feb. 12. He said traffic issues such as this are not unique to Strathmore and occur throughout the County, and given the relatively recent lighting improvements at the intersection additional improvements are not likely to be considered soon. But improvements to surrounding intersections have been completed while another one is on the way.

“The County is working to make our communities safer, whether that be for drivers, pedestrians, or residents.  We are regularly evaluating areas to make traffic safety improvements. The flashing lights at Road 230 and Avenue 196 prove that point,” Crocker said. “Traffic safety is a concern throughout the entire county and is not unique to Strathmore. I will talk with staff about this, but considering our recent investment here, I do not believe this will be as high a priority as others.”

“Additionally, we have made improvements to the intersection of Orange Belt and Ave 196, and we will be making improvements to the intersection of Avenue 196 and Meredith,” Crocker added.

When it comes to street lights, cities and counties are unwilling to spend additional dollars on new street lights in already developed areas. Instead local governments are more interested in replacing older street lights with new brighter and more energy efficient light bulbs. Crocker practically says as much in his response to Lamb as well.

“In regards to streetlights, the County is not in the streetlight business.  The Strathmore Public Utility District has the ability to get into the streetlight business, if residents and SPUD board want to take on that cost.  That would mean a higher water bill for you and the rest of the people living in town,” Crocker said.

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