Palm Coast and Flagler School District staff are working to make local streets and bus stops safer for children in the wake of multiple crashes involving children, including one that killed a 7-year-old girl as she waited at her school bus stop.
Most of the incidents involved children trying to get to or from school, and resident frustration after 7-year-old Wadsworth student Kymora Christian’s death led to the creation of a Facebook group dedicated to street safety and a petition titled “Safer residential streets in Palm Coast, Florida.”
“Three children have been hit by cars while walking or biking to school in 2015 since school started in August,” the petition’s text read. “Our children should not have to worry about their safety when they are going to school. We need to make sure our children have a safe, well-lit path to walk and ride on... We can do better by our kids.”
Three more kids have been struck since the petition went up in October, including a boy who was injured Jan. 4 after a vehicle struck him as he bicycled in Palm Coast.
Meanwhile, a committee of staff from the city of Palm Coast and the Flagler School District began meeting Oct. 13, less than a week after Kymora’s death, to search for ways to make streets and bus stops safer for kids — in some places a difficult proposition, as many neighborhoods in Palm Coast were created without sidewalks.
So far, they’ve considered creating places for children to stand and wait for school buses away from the road, changing the location of stops to move them to quieter streets, and holding safety instruction for children.
“The initial meeting, we did a lot of brainstorming and threw a lot of stuff out there,” Jason DeLorenzo, the group’s City Council representative, told City Council members at a Nov. 10 council meeting. “Then the staff, our staff and School District staff, were talking back and forth, put together a strategic plan.”
The city is working on the engineering side of the problem, considering moving bus stops to city-owned land away from main roads. The school district has already begun work on the education aspect, and plans to use Student Problem Solver teams to help educate fellow students about road safety.
City Councilman Steve Nobile has also expressed concern in City Council meetings about speeding in school zones and cars passing stopped school buses, suggesting increased police presence.
Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon said during a City Council meeting that some communities have cameras on school buses and issue citations to people who pass them, and Mayor Jon Netts said that one Florida city has sent citizen observer patrols out with radar guns to clock drivers in school zones.
The observers got speeders’ plate numbers and sent them letters saying that they’d been seen speeding in a school zone, and that if they’d been clocked by a deputy, they would have received a ticket.
“It’s helpful that people know that someone’s watching,” he said at the meeting. “When we had the red light camera signs up, people slowed down. When police cars start the flashing lights, people slow down. ... I’d suggest the public, council members, contact their representatives and suggest that school bus cameras make sense — even if you don’t do enforcement and you just send a nasty letter."