Columbus leaders are promising changes at a crosswalk where a student was hit by a car and where they refused a request to install flashing light a year earlier.
In August, two weeks into the school year, 11th grader BreAnna Russell of West High School was hit while crossing Central Avenue at Main Street in front of Starling Middle School. That's where she's caught her school bus for the past three years. Witnesses say she flew as much 40 feet into the air before she landed on the pavement. The driver who hit her said he did not see her in the early morning darkness. Russell suffered a concussion and does not remember the accident. She only remembers waking up in the hospital.
"They said that I'm lucky to be alive," BreAnna said two months later while still wearing a leg brace. "My shoulder is fractured in two spots and my pelvis is fractured. And, I had a broken knee. It was in half."
Almost one year earlier in October of 2017, a Columbus Police officer emailed the City Public Service Division regarding her own concerns about the Central and Main crosswalk for area students. She wrote, "I observed many cars not stopping for the kids who were trying to use the crosswalk, so I stopped traffic myself." The officer requested a flashing light for the area, a request which was denied.
"That device might not be the best for that location but we have a lot of other tools in the toolbox to increase crosswalk safety," Reynaldo Stargell with City Public Service said. "Most of the concerns expressed to us by the police officer, at that point, were about the school children at Starling."
Stargell said his staff visited the crosswalk last school year, spoke with Starling staff and encouraged them to have kids cross at Central and Town where there's a crossing guard. They also determined a flashing light would compete with the school zone signal that already exists in that stretch of Central. The school zone light starts to flash at 8:30 am for the Starling kids. That's two hours after the West High School kids catch their bus.
"A lot of studies and previous efforts focused on the Starling students," said Stargell. "It wasn't until September (2018) that we realized there's a bus stop over here so we broadened our focus to look at the entire school day."
After Russell was hit, hospitalized for a week and missed one month of school, the city installed a camera at the Central and Main crosswalk to study the traffic and pedestrian flow for a full 24-hour span. The video is still being analyzed but Stargell is promising some sort of safety improvements like more signage, roadway markings or moving the bus stop for the West High School students. He hopes to gave a game plan for the neighborhood by the end of the month.
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