Officials: S. Ogden crossing guard needs to reduce distractions

May 24 2011 - 11:36pm

Images

(NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner) Ray “Rusty” Underwood waits for pedestrians at approximately 650 E. 5300 South in South Ogden on Tuesday. Officials have asked the crossing guard to tone down his behavior so he doesn’t distract and endanger drivers.
(NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner) Ray “Rusty” Underwood waits for pedestrians at approximately 650 E. 5300 South in South Ogden on Tuesday. Officials have asked the crossing guard to tone down his behavior so he doesn’t distract and endanger drivers.
(NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner) Ray “Rusty” Underwood waits for pedestrians at approximately 650 E. 5300 South in South Ogden on Tuesday. Officials have asked the crossing guard to tone down his behavior so he doesn’t distract and endanger drivers.
(NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner) Ray “Rusty” Underwood waits for pedestrians at approximately 650 E. 5300 South in South Ogden on Tuesday. Officials have asked the crossing guard to tone down his behavior so he doesn’t distract and endanger drivers.

SOUTH OGDEN -- Ray "Rusty" Underwood brightened the school year for thousands of drivers, waving to cars as they whizzed by on U.S. 89 in South Ogden each morning.

But his gestures stopped a couple of weeks ago, leaving his motoring friends wondering why.

Underwood has been keeping his hands in his pockets lately because he said he was told by his supervisor to stop waving.

"I enjoy waving to people as they pass by, and I enjoy walking the kids across the street. I even have doctors and nurses who walk and ride their bikes to work in the morning," Underwood said.

"But I was told twice that I couldn't wave anymore because someone called and complained and said it was causing a distraction."

South Ogden Police Chief of Staff Karen Disney said Underwood wasn't told he couldn't wave to people driving through the intersection at approximately 650 E. 5300 South.

"He has been told that he can't wave with both hands, can't yell at passing cars and can't jump up and down at passing traffic," she said.

"We have been told he has been doing these things by other crossing guards and police officers, and we have witnessed some incidents ourselves."

Disney said one woman reported approaching the light and being startled by Underwood, who was yelling at her to watch out for a water pump. She got flustered and ended up running through the red light.

"It's 50 mph on that street, and it can be a very scary place to cross," Disney said. "We don't mind if he waves to people, but we can't have any distractions on that road.

"It's not like other crossings, where the traffic isn't as intense. We often try to have two crossing guards at that intersection because of the potential danger. If the drivers are distracted, especially going at that speed, we're going to end up having a hazard."

But Underwood said he sees drivers gun it through the intersection every day so they'll beat the red light.

"I've seen some close calls here," he said. "I feel bad that some people have complained and think I'm causing a distraction, but people gun it through this light, whether I'm here or not."

Disney said Underwood is a dedicated worker who is very friendly.

"We like Rusty. He's a nice man and a happy guy, but we need him to focus on helping the kids cross the street and not focus on the traffic," she said.

"We have all of our crossing guards go through training, and they have been told if there's a problem with a driver to get the plate and call it in and let our law enforcement officers handle the situation."

Underwood said he's going to keep his hands out of the air for now.

"I love this job. It makes me feel good. I buried one son at the age of 24 and another at the age of 39. My remaining son just moved to Texas," he said.

"This has given me something to do to replace that sadness to some extent. I even have to have two knees replaced this summer, and I am walking in a great deal of pain, but I do it because I love it."

Underwood is familiar to the school system, having worked as a custodian in Ogden School District for 21 years. Before that, he worked as a transportation coordinator for the schools.

"I've worked with kids my whole life. I know them by name, and it's important to me that they get across the street safely. I always tell them to be careful, be safe and to have a good day," he said.

"I'm just going to keep my hands in my pockets or behind my back from now on."

From Around the Web

  +