History of Tragedy at 4th and Washington - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

History of Tragedy at 4th and Washington

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Signs of a memorial for Ryan Penrod are still in the intersection of 4th and Washington Streets in Downtown Reno. Two pedestrians have been seriously injured or killed in the same intersection in the past week. Despite some improvements, Ryan's mom says the intersection where he died in a crash, is still too dangerous.

"It never goes away..." says Paula Penrod, who lost her 30-year-old son in January 2011, "It seems like forever since my son was here, but it seems like it was yesterday."  

After the crash, Penrod pushed for the City of Reno to put in a traffic signal at the intersection where it happened. The city did add a flashing pedestrian signal but Penrod says that is not enough and doesn't help vehicle crashes like the one her son was in. 

In 2014, Reno police looked at pedestrian crashes to see where they were happening most often on 4th Street between Keystone Avenue and Sage Street, according to Lt. Scott Dugan with the traffic division. He says grant funding allowed them to add more resources to enforcing laws in that area, including at the intersection of 4th and Washington. Still when he thinks of that intersection, tragedy is the word that comes to mind.

"We've don't quite a bit, just in that area, enforcement wise," says Lt. Dugan, "and we are still seeing these sorts of tragic events occur, so it is certainly frustrating, and sad."

He says educating both pedestrians and drivers is the key to change. Distracted and impaired drivers are one issue, but pedestrians not using cross walks and signals are also an issue. Ultimately, he says people need to take safety tips seriously, "When we can start changing the culture and the behavior both on the driver side and the pedestrian side, then I think we're going to make some serious traction improving safety."

We spoke with several people that live in the area that want to see some engineering changes to the intersection. Common complaints are that drivers ignore flashing signals and drivers get too impatient trying to cross 4th street on Washington. Some say the city needs to make it a 4-way stop, add more lights, or add a traffic signal. 

"I didn't want to see another person killed at this intersection," says Penrod, "and I did not want to have another family go through what our family has gone through with the death of Ryan."

The City of Reno responded in a statement saying that engineers are looking at adding more lighting to the area. When they looked at the intersection in 2014, there was not enough vehicle traffic to justify a traffic signal and could lead to more accidents. That is why there is a flashing pedestrian crossing signal rather than a full light.

Read the full statement below:
The City of Reno is committed to making our streets safe and increasing walkability. Based on the recent pedestrian deaths in the area of 4th and Washington, the City is looking at potentially increasing lighting in that area.

Based on Ms. Penrod's request, the City of Reno looked at the intersection of 4th and Washington in early 2014 to see if it would be appropriate to install a traffic signal at that location. Based on the limited number of cars that pass through that area, staff determined that that area is not suited for a traffic signal. That intersection sees fewer than the average of 200 cars per hour, which is the recommended average to warrant a traffic signal. Generally, that intersection gets an average of around 120 cars per hour. 

Instead of a traffic signal, road safety auditors recommended a pedestrian-activated flasher system as an alternative to more restrictive traffic control. 

Less restrictive alternatives should be explored before a more restrictive traffic control measure is considered. Installation of an unwarranted traffic control device will increase vehicle delay and may not provide any significant safety benefits, and could potentially increase accident rates for rear-end, sideswipe and head-on crashes.


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