Is school crosswalk putting students at risk?

The ABC11 I-Team has uncovered one of the Triangle's most dangerous schools for kids.
November 19, 2013 9:33:27 AM PST
The ABC11 I-Team has uncovered one of the Triangle's most dangerous crosswalks for kids.

The road near Cary High School is dangerous because so many students have been hit by cars in and near crosswalks there. The latest incident was just two weeks ago. Amazingly, as the I-Team learned, nothing may be done to make it safer.

"How could he not stop," asked Nadine Shiepko.

Shiepko still can't believe her daughter, Brittney, was hit by a car in the crosswalk right in front of the school.

"He admitted to the cop, he said he thought they were going to stop in the middle and let him proceed.," said Shiepko.

"She kind of like hops to try to move out of the way and he slows down just as he hits them," said Ashley Shiepko , Brittney 's sister.

Ashley saw her sister and another student get hit by the same driver -- breaking bones and suffering permanent damage.

"She's going to be having crowns for the rest of her life on her front teeth," said Nadine.

Brittney is just the latest in a long line of hits and near-misses going back years. In August, a 17 year old was hit on his bike in the crosswalk. In 2008, another student was hit. In 2003, another was seriously hurt.

The city has already made a series of changes, including putting up fences in 2007, putting up more signs and street lights. However, it's happened again, and Nadine Shiepko is on a mission.

"Something needs to be done to protect these students.," said Nadine.

Shortly after Shiepko's daughter was hit, something was done.

City engineers, police, the DOT, which owns that road and that crosswalk, and school officials all met to brainstorm ideas, which ranged from increased police patrols to more bells and whistles to get drivers' attention.

"They're talking about adding rumble strips and some other flashing beacons and I asked them to look at installing a stop light," said Cary High School Principal Nolan Bryant.

However, despite the school's pleas and the fact that there have been 31 accidents in this crosswalk in just the past five years, city engineers say the majority of the crashes haven't involved students or pedestrians. So there may not be justification for safety improvements

"We don't seem to have a consistent pattern of crashes," said Cary traffic engineer David Spencer.

Spencer says the data likely shows the crosswalk is not the problem.

"From what we've seen so far, there does not appear to be anything, geometrically or engineering-wise with that crosswalk that would lead us to believe that it's causing the crashes," said Spencer.

Still, Spencer's team and the DOT will spend the next few weeks studying the area. However, that's not good enough for Nadine, who wants something done now.

"I think a crossing guard helping the students during the day while school is opened," said Nadine.

It turns out there are roadblocks to even that seemingly simple solution.  

"None of my staff members, including myself, can step into that street and direct traffic and it being all on us," said Bryant.

That's because protecting students from physical harm could put the school at legal risk, which makes any short-term solution to the dangers outside Cary High School seem unlikely. That also makes this mother's plea all the more important to hear.

"When you drive past here, please be careful and be on the lookout for kids that are crossing," said Nadine.

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