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'Afraid there's going to be more': Two pedestrians hit in Crookston crosswalks within a week

The corner of Broadway and Robert Street in Crookston. (April Baumgarten/Grand Forks Herald)

Crookston City Council member Bobby Baird looked both ways before stepping into the North Broadway crosswalk at the Robert Street intersection last Wednesday night.

And then, out of the corner of his eye, he said he saw a car heading toward him. Before he knew it, he said he'd rolled onto the hood of a 2008 Saturn Vue and slammed onto the pavement.

Baird went to the hospital and said his knee was swollen. He'll follow up with doctors to check on his back and hip, but more than anything, he said he's shaken and concerned—especially after another pedestrian was hit just a block away Monday.

"I'm afraid there's going to be more," he said.

The Crookston Times reported Tuesday that Ashley Rystad, 31, Crookston, was walking westbound in the North Broadway crosswalk near Second Street when she was hit about 11:30 a.m. Monday. A 2018 GMC Acadia driven by Ruth Cameron of Mentor, Minn., hit Rystad while making a left-hand turn, the article said.

She was taken to the hospital and her injuries are unknown. But witnesses said she was alert at the scene, the Times reported.

Tia Johnson, who hit Baird, was cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Attempts to reach the Crookston Police Department were not returned by the Herald's press deadline.

Court records did not show any citations Tuesday afternoon for Ruth Cameron, who hit Rystad.

Baird said this isn't the first time pedestrians have been hit downtown, and he doubts it'll be the last. His friend, Ramona Unke, was hit by a semi and killed in 2008 at the same intersection where he was struck.

"You don't think about it right away, but when I'm laying there in the ER, you think about that," he said. "You think about how she wasn't lucky, but I was. But she tangled with a semi and I tangled with a car—there's quite a bit of difference."

Baird said the intersection seems more crowded and distracting than other parts of town, and drivers often need to pull far into the crosswalk to see far enough to turn right during a red light.

The Crookston Bypass from Polk County Road 9 to Highway 2 has been under construction, and Baird said the detour has driven more traffic into the downtown area. He said the increase in traffic and the high frequency of distracted drivers might also help explain the accidents.

"It's just our culture right now," Baird said. "You drive down the highway and 10 cars pass you and eight of them are on the phone or texting. I see it all the time."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate nine people die and more than 1,000 crashes are caused daily by distracted driving. The number continues to increase, and a study by Zendrive found that 88 percent of drivers used their phones behind the wheel during 2016 and 2017.

Baird said he hopes the accidents will serve as a wake-up call. He said he wants people to be more attentive behind the wheel and hopes police will start cracking down on speeding and "California stops" or rolling stops downtown.

"I hate to say it, but I don't think this is over," he said.