BOZEMAN — A Bozeman woman found herself in a nightmare scenario recently, watching her son get hit by a car on a legal crosswalk. Weeks later, the boy is OK, but his mother is seeking to make a difference.
On Saturday, September 19, Alycia Patencio and her 12-year-old son were looking to cross this part of Main Street right next to Willson Avenue when she said the unthinkable happened. Now, she has a message that all drivers need to hear: “At some point, somebody has got to stand up and say what about the pedestrians,” Patencio said. “Well, I’m doing that right now.”
On that rainy Saturday, to Patencio, it began in the blink of a yellow light.
“My son, my mom and I, we were going to breakfast at Jam and we crossed Main Street,” Patenico said. “A car hit my 12-year-old son and threw him into the air.”
According to the police report, the 19-year-old driver stopped and Patencio saw to it that her son got medical attention. Even as we talked at the same intersection on Thursday, on-camera, someone else makes the same left turn during a red light with a pedestrian about to cross.
“As a person who watched this happen before my eyes and had my child snatched away from me, an arm’s length away, that does not feel in any shape, way or form fair, balanced, or just,” Patencio said. “It doesn’t.”
The defendant pleaded guilty to careless driving and was ordered to pay $100 in fines, plus court fees. To Patencio and her son, the problem doesn’t stop there.
“The drivers have all of the rights and none of the responsibilities because when they run a kid over at a crosswalk, the penalty, the fine is $100 plus court fees and that’s just not OK,” Patencio said. “That shouldn’t be OK.”
Patencio said she talked to the city attorney for guidance on how to make a change but Main Street is also a state highway, maintained by the Montana Department of Transportation.
“If it were me and you were to say there is one change that could make a change on this corner, it is those lights,” Patencio said. “The City of Bozeman and the state of Montana have got to work together.”
While they can’t change the lights, Bozeman Police Department officers said the risks taken by pushing through yellow lights aren’t worth costs like Patencio's.
In March 2019, a similar situation: a man, suffering severe injuries from a left turn on a red one block over. Officers say the yellow light does not mean speed through it but prepare to stop.
“He’s going to be OK,” Patencio said. “That’s the most important part of this story that I want people to know is that my son is alright from his physical injuries and stuff.”
As for Patencio, that’s all she wants: to raise awareness.
“There are some things that you see that you never want another human being to experience. That is what happened on that Saturday,” Patencio said. “I never want another human being to ever, ever see that.”
Police do add that penalties for running red lights can range up to $500 in some circumstances and are also dependent on each individual situation.