An accident that severely injured a father and his two daughters has intensified efforts among some Ward 8 parents to address traffic safety concerns and develop a plan to curb reckless driving along corridors and intersections within walking distance of their children’s schools.
Near Turner Elementary School, the focus has been on Stanton Terrace and Alabama Avenue where students line up to enter the building every morning.
Since the start of in-person learning in August, parents have recounted instances where they and their children had to jump out of the way of speeding cars and trucks that crossed onto the sidewalk and crashed into a school fence.
As Philana Hall, a parent of two Turner students also pointed out, crossing guards attempting to carry out their duties have similarly experienced the wrath of antagonistic drivers during morning and afternoon rush hour.
“If there’s one crossing guard here, the drivers give them hell. They don’t pay any attention to this light,” said Hall on Monday morning as she stood on the corner of Stanton Terrace and Alabama Avenue.
“Alabama Avenue is treacherous and it’s so scary. I would like a bigger police presence in the morning to help our crossing guards,” she said.
Families in Ward 8 and in other parts of the District said they have enough reasons for similar requests.
Earlier this month, during International Walk-to-School Day, a Jeep Grand Cherokee struck Tyrone Belton and his daughters, Faith and Heavyn White, as they crossed the street at the intersection of Wheeler Road and Mississippi Avenue in Southeast.
That incident took place weeks after a vehicle struck and killed five-year-old Allie Hart in Brookland and six months after four-year-old Zy’aire Joshua lost his life under similar circumstances on Georgia Avenue and Kennedy Street in Northwest.
The Wheeler Road/Mississippi Avenue accident compelled D.C. Councilmember Trayon White (D-Ward 8) to contact D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) about traffic safety complaints his office has received.
The D.C. Department of Transportation, in response to criticism about the Vision Zero program, announced efforts to accelerate their processing of traffic safety assessment requests and traffic safety improvement projects.
Following a D.C. Council hearing about Safe Passage legislation, Ward 8 residents geared up for an October 21 meeting with DDOT Interim Chair Everett Lott and Lott’s D.C. Council confirmation hearing that’s scheduled for October 26.
Turner Elementary parents who’ve organized with ANC Commissioner Cheryl Moore (SMD 8E02) and Ward 8 State Board of Education Representative Carlene Reid have demanded the presence of a traffic safety officer along with fully functioning walk buttons where Alabama Avenue meets Stanton Terrace. They also want deterrents for parents who double park along Stanton Terrace before and after school.
A parent who asked to be referred to as Sam said because of traffic safety concerns at Alabama Avenue and Stanton Road she often struggles choosing between directly walking across Alabama Avenue at 18th Street or taking a detour that would make her children late for school.
“When you push this light, the cars don’t stop,” Sam said.
“Some of them pass you and keep going. My oldest daughter can walk by herself in the morning, [so] I tell her to cross the street and look both ways. She knows she can Facetime me if something happens.”
Since the inception of the Vision Zero program, the District has lowered the speed limit in some places and reduced opportunities to turn on red at certain intersections. Other changes include the addition of speed bumps. Such efforts, however, haven’t reduced traffic injuries and fatalities due to what some residents describe as inequities in services.
That’s why Turner Elementary parents, in collaboration with Moore and Reid, continue to organize for the fulfillment of their requests. At this juncture, goals include eliciting more parental support and presence in the streets before and after school hours.
While she supports calls for increased traffic safety measures, Dryonna Minor, a mother of two Turner Elementary students, said the onus ultimately falls on parents to ensure that their children make it safely across the street.
“I hold my child’s hand so if we get hit, we’re getting hit together,” Minor said.
“You can’t control how people drive so we need to make sure we talk to our kids and make sure they look both ways [if they’re not] traveling with an adult.”