A hit-and-run crash by a car on a horse-drawn carriage along Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs has prompted police there to focus attention on the crosswalks across Central Ave. and other distracted driving infractions.
The crash on Saturday, Dec. 2 put a woman in intensive care for five days and will likely keep the carriage horse from working in traffic again. Police are close to making an arrest, but the incident put the fast-growing, busy thoroughfare in focus.
“People just aren't paying attention so we're going to do some focused enforcement on those crosswalks,” said Cpl. Joey Williams, the public information officer for Hot Springs Police Department. “We’ll also be stepping up DUI and distracted driving enforcement.”
Williams and local businesses have noticed the uptick in traffic as the Spa City adds a holiday tourism season to go along with the busy summertime and the winter-to-spring racing season. Holiday decorations line the world famous Central Ave.
“Right now in Hot Springs, downtown is booming,” Williams said. “You can look around and see all the businesses that are opening and things like that so we draw a whole new group of tourists in.”
Booming business can mean bumper to bumper back-ups, but too many drivers are not noticing the marked crosswalks, leading to lots of close calls, and a call for a drivers’ education refresher course.
“What the Arkansas law says pertaining to crosswalks, if it's a marked crosswalk or it's an intersection that's an assumed crosswalk, vehicles have to yield to the pedestrian,” Williams said. “If you're crossing in an area that's not marked or in an intersection then you have to yield to vehicular traffic.”
“Traffic can get pretty hectic because these people are at every hotel in Hot Springs,” said Justin Baker, who manages the valet parking for The Waters Hotel and has seen bicyclists hit and pedestrian darting out from between cars. “With so much traffic downtown, It's a tourist town and we’ve got a lot of children down here. That's my number one concern is the kids.”
Williams said this isn’t a way for police to generate tickets heading into the holidays.
“What we want people to do is be safe,” he said. “We want people to enjoy the Christmas holiday at home with their family and not in a hospital or injured.”