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Marion County Sheriff's Office issues 146 citations in eight total hours in late May

GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN
 - Memorials have been erected adjacent to McKay Road for Jorge Valdez and Leonel Sanchez since their deaths in March.

On May 20 and 21, the traffic safety team of the Marion County Sheriff's Office posted up in the French Prairie area and waited. The surrounding area in northern Marion County, including McKay Road, has been a flashpoint of danger and death for the past few months.

In late March, Leonel Sanchez and Jorge Valdez were killed as a result of a head-on collision on McKay Road. The recent enforcement operation is aimed at discouraging speeding drivers and promoting safe habits behind the wheel.

The safety team made 106 traffic stops and issued a total of 146 citations over the course of eight total hours; 93 of those citations were for speeding, 20 of which were for speeds between 75 and 90 mph in a 55 mph zone.

"It's an area that has gotten attention from Marion County public works, our sheriff's office traffic safety team as well as the Oregon Department of Transportation to see what we can do to reduce injury and fatal crashes in that area," MCSO Sgt. Jeremy Landers said. "Given the rural location of the roadways, they do fall under the (state's) basic rule, which is at 55 miles per hour for that type of a roadway. With them being so open, it's not uncommon for a drivers to go higher speeds because they don't see the danger that those roadways create."

Focused patrol efforts, according to the sheriff's office, were done during two separate four-hour windows on the morning of May 20 and on the afternoon of May 21. Deputies, they say, focused their efforts on dangerous driving habits known to cause injuries or fatalities in vehicular crashes.

The effort, part of a collaboration between the county's public works department and the sheriff's office, was funded by a grant from ODOT and will continue June 27-28. Landers said the sheriff's office put out information before the patrols in order to give local drivers a heads-up.

Still, dozens of drivers broke the law and drove at dangerous speeds.

"Our goal is to help educate about those dangers and give people a chance to comply with the law," Landers said. "Sometimes the reminder is enough to inspire awareness, sometimes it's the financial incentive with a citation, sometimes it's a family member or friend getting hurt in a collision. Our goal is to try and minimize people having to get hurt for people to slow down and pay attention."

Landers said ODOT and local government entities are looking into added signage or markings in the area to help encourage safe driving, and the plan is for the sheriff's office to continue collaborating with public works on future patrols. Their mission is simply enforcement and visibility, but at the end of the day Landers said it's up to drivers to recognize the dangers of the area and slow down.

"I just want to encourage people to engage in safe driving habits, slow down, avoid aggressive driving behaviors and put their cell phones down," Landers said. "People need to be focused on what they're doing at the time, because they're putting themselves and others at risk."


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