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A pact to pay attention

  • Armando Jimenez, 13, and his sister, Ashley Jimenez, 7, stop to look at the memorial site for 4-year-old Christopher "Buddy" Rowe, while Armando walks Ashley home from Lincoln Elementary School, in Santa Rosa, on Tuesday, August 23, 2011. Rowe was struck by a vehicle while crossing West Ninth Street, at Rockwell Place, on Thursday, August 18, and died Friday.

Every seven minutes, somewhere in America someone is hit by a car or truck. Odds are that person will be a young child, most likely a boy. Odds are that the accident will happen in the afternoon as children are at play. And, despite the fact that we have heard all the warnings before about staying off cellphones, being cautious around school areas and being attentive, odds are nothing will change. These accidents will continue to happen, and the number of children who have needlessly died in traffic deaths in America will continue to climb.

At 3 p.m. today, friends and family members will gather at St. Eugene's Cathedral on Montgomery Drive in Santa Rosa to pay tribute to one of those children — 4-year-old Christopher Rowe.

By now his heart-rending story is well known. He, his mom and his sisters, including his 4-year-old twin, were en route to a park near their home off West Ninth Street on Aug. 18. At a crosswalk on Ninth, a car stopped. The girls went ahead, the boy dawdled.

Boy Hit In Santa Rosa Crosswalk

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California's vehicle laws require drivers to stop when they see another vehicle heading in the same direction that is stopped at a crosswalk. But for reasons that defy explanation and common sense, a driver raced past the waiting car and struck the lagging Christopher at high speed. "Buddy," as his family knew him, was pronounced dead the next day.

The driver fled, but, with the help of witnesses, police were able to arrest a suspect, Marcos Lopez Garcia, 22. He is scheduled to enter a plea Tuesday on charges of felony hit-and-run causing a death, misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and driving without a license.

About the only positive thing to come of this is that it has prompted a community discussion about pedestrian safety and driver inattentiveness. We should say it has prompted <i2>another<i> discussion, as this is only the latest in a series of car-vs.-pedestrian accidents in recent months in the area. Other victims have included a 2-year-old girl in Rohnert Park, an 83-year-old man in Cloverdale and a 63-year-old San Francisco attorney who was killed by a hit-and-run driver along River Road. Last week, the reward for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for the hit-and-run accident is $12,500.

Residents of the neighborhood where Christopher was killed also have circulated a petition in hopes of getting the city to install a traffic light or stop sign there at the crossing at Rockwell Place. Such a study would be a worthy endeavor. But we encourage the city to not just look at this intersection, which clearly deserves attention, but at all such crosswalks that span four lanes in Santa Rosa. Given that they lack signals or crossing lights, the city calls this type of crossing an "uncontrolled approach." Whatever you want to call it, it doesn't appear to us that this approach is working.

However, this is not a problem that can be resolved by traffic engineers alone. This is a societal dilemma, and little will change in the long run unless we all make a pact to slow down, to put away the cellphones, to be more attentive and to commit to making Christopher Rowe the last Sonoma County victim of this kind.

It would be a the most fitting tribute we can offer.


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