CLARKSVILLE, TN (CLARKSVILLE NOW) – A recent accident has sparked conversations in the community on how to make students safer while traveling to and from school.
Anthony Johnson, public information officer for Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, said after school on Friday a Clarksville High School student walked to the church across the street to meet his parent/guardian at her vehicle.
“Traffic was at a standstill on both sides when it was reported that the students spotted his parent’s/guardian’s car at CHS. He ran across the street to meet her,” Johnson said in a press release. “He ran across the street to meet her, there was a City of Clarksville Crossing Guard and Clarksville Police Department officer directing traffic and overseeing the two established crosswalks in front of CHS, but it was reported the student ran in between the crosswalks where the two were stationed. A car traveling in the middle turning lane struck the student as he was crossing the street.”
Johnson said the student was transported to Vanderbilt via Life Flight.
Clarksville Police Department spokesperson Scott Beaubien said according to the police report regarding the accident the student cut between two vehicles when he was struck by a vehicle traveling in the continuous left turn lane.
“Traffic was at a standstill in both directions when the student re-entered the roadway after they saw their ride coming from the opposite direction. The location the student re-entered the roadway was 372 feet away from the north crossing guard and 396 feet away from the south crossing guard,” he said. “At this time officers have been advised that the student’s condition is stable, and this is still an open investigation.”
Clarksville High School Principal Bryan Feldman also released a statement regarding the accident.
“Continue to keep Vincent in your thoughts and prayers. He is a tough kid and is improving daily. Continue to pray for his family and friends as well. Many have asked about making donations to the family. We are working with the family and will get information to you over the next couple of days on how you can give. I appreciate the outpouring of love and concern and how strong our CHS family is. Thank you,” he said in a statement released to the school community.
A parent’s view of the chaotic traffic
Monica Bueno, a resident of Clarksville since 2010, was among the cars waiting to pick up students at the time the accident happened. She said the issues with traffic congestion have just gotten increasingly worse.
“The big conversation has always been about bus shortage,” Bueno said, noting traffic congestion and inadequate width of roads is the real issue.
Although she didn’t personally see the accident, she did witness the issues with traffic. “We were taking Richview Road northbound going from Madison to Memorial,” she said. “When the cars started for the car rider section, I remember thinking why is traffic so backed up?”
Bueno said she realized the back-up traffic must be for the high school. “Alot of people were having to drive around the traffic,” she said. She also noticed there were no shoulders on the sides of the road for cars to pull over and wait for students. As students were picked up, Bueno said she noticed that a lot of people were having to drive around the traffic utilizing the middle lane.
“My husband was driving so I was more observant about what was going on around me without having to be distracted by driving,” she said.
Bueno said while she did observe most of the students used the crosswalks, because of the way the cars were backed up, it would have been tough for anyone to know what was going on.
Bueno said both she and her husband were alarmed at the amount of traffic on Friday. “When we saw the news later that day, I thought that was the perfect storm for something to happen.”
In her mind, Bueno said there are ways to decrease the congestion of cars during times when school lets out including staggering student release times or installing car lines like those utilized in some districts in Nashville which forces cars to stop.
Bueno said it just boils down to safety. “All of our kids should feel safe getting to and from school,” she said. “If it means we need more money (to ensure safety measures), I’m sure a lot of people would be alright with that whether it’s sidewalks or crossing guards to get our kids back and forth to school safely.”
City looking to utilize funds to ensure student safety
Casey Williams, communications specialist for the City of Clarksville, said sidewalks near schools are something the city is working on.
The City of Clarksville is closely examining how to best utilize the $6 million in funding set aside for the sidewalk installation in local school zones, which was proposed by Councilman Brian Zachrias and accepted by majority vote by the city council.
On June 14, 2022, Councilman Brian Zachrias proposed an amendment to the city’s 2023 fiscal budget.
“As I sit here today, there will be elementary students required to walk to school that do not have sidewalks to get them to where they need to go from their homes,” he told council members.
Williams said the city is still looking for ways to improve safety for students.
“We have installed 1,958 feet of sidewalk from South Jordan to Cunningham Lane which connects Jordan to Minglewood,” he said, noting the new sidewalks impacts 35 residences.
“The other project is North Senseney Circle from the western portion of Rafiki. That sidewalk connects to Peachers Mill and impacts 125 homes to Barker’s Elementary,” he said, noting that project equals about 5,000 feet of sidewalk.
“We are currently looking at how to most efficiently utilize the remaining funds to help as many people as possible,” he said.