GARLAND (CBSDFW.COM) – The Garland City Council approved a new school zone outside of Garland High School Tuesday night.
This was a direct response to a request from parents at the campus after instances of kids being hit by fast drivers along the busy South Garland Avenue.
The street runs directly in front of the high school, with no school zone. The current speed limit is 35 mph, but city leaders are proposing a 20 mph speed limit along this road during appropriate hours. That change will be up for a vote at the city council meeting on Tuesday night.
There is currently no school zone along this roadway because most kids do not arrive at campus from this direction.
Garland’s mayor expects the recommendation to pass without any question. “When the school zone says 20 mph, people need to be doing exactly 20 mph or less,” said Mayor Douglas Athas. “People just don’t realize that hitting someone with a car at 25 mph or greater is almost guaranteed serious injury or death.”
In the last two months, two students from Garland High School have been hit by drivers. In both instances, the students were in the crosswalk on their way to school in the morning. And, in one of the cases, the student hit a button at the crosswalk for a set of lights to start flashing.
When a pedestrian is in the crosswalk, vehicles must yield. But that has not been enough to keep kids safe. Athas believes that too many drivers are distracted behind the wheel, and being dangerous. “People need to be a lot more cautious around schools than what they’re being,” he said.
“I get it too, because they’re rushing to work, but it’s just, sometimes, they don’t care,” said student Marcos DeJesus.
A pickup truck hit 18-year-old Natalia Estrada back in January and threw her several yards. She broke six bones and endured multiple surgeries. The driver of that vehicle fled from the scene. Then, just last month, another student was struck along the same road. After the second incident, the school held an assembly to reinforce to kids the need to be careful while crossing the street.
“It’s not just around schools,” Athas said. “We’re seeing an uptick in accidents. It’s not just Garland. Cities all over the United States are seeing an uptick in accidents. And most of it, I presume, it’s because of distracted driving.” Along with a penalty for speeding, a new school zone in Garland would also create a penalty for using a cell phone.
“I really think it’s just a matter of people paying better attention, honestly,” added mother Gloria Gray. She and parents Emily Coker and Aubrey Blankenship welcome the proposal for a school zone, but are not sure that it will solve the problem. Nearby streets are also under a school zone, and two other crashes occurred in those areas earlier this year. According to police, those were the fault of teenage pedestrians, not drivers.