Parents concerned about students crossing 136th Ave.


HOLLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — After a child was hit by a car along 136th Avenue walking to school near Holland Monday morning, parents are asking the district for added safety measures.

The Harbor Lights Middle School student is OK and went to classes after the incident, but parents are concerned that the next time their child or others cross the street, they may not be so lucky.

Izaiah Benavidez, 11, has to cross busy 136th some mornings because his parents work and can’t drive him to the advanced math classes he takes at the middle school.

“It’s also frustrating when all these cars keep going on, ’cause like I never know the exact perfect time so I have to just predict ahead,” he said.

His dad, Rodrigo Benavidez, said that even though they can’t help some mornings, the school district should.

“My biggest fear is somebody getting hit like they did today or even worse,” Benavidez said.

He said more students started to cross 136th after West Ottawa Public Schools stopped bus service along nearby Depot Lane during road construction. He said the district said it would resume that bus service after the construction was over, but never did.

He said he reached out to the district, asking officials to make it safer to cross 136th. They directed him to the county road commission — which sent him back to the district.

“I’ve contacted the Ottawa County Road Commission like you suggested and they pretty much said that it is the school’s responsibility to put up signage and/or crosswalks across 136th,” he read from one of his emails to the district.

He said he called the principal and wrote several emails to the district, but the effort never gained any traction.

The district says it contacted the road commission to conduct a study on crosswalks and sidewalks because there isn’t a bus route, but those results are not back yet.

If the district were to put in a new crosswalk, it would have to be manned with paid crossing guards — which the district said it may be willing to fund.

For now, the district suggests students cross at intersections with stop lights.

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The Ottawa County Road Commission’s response to the Benavidez family:

“Thank you for the e-mail below regarding pedestrian traffic safety on 136th Avenue. The Ottawa County Road Commission has a continuing traffic safety improvement program and appreciates your interest in this issue.

“A field review indicated that school speed limit signing is in place for the middle school; however it was noted the school speed limit signing for Pine Creek Elementary was inadvertently omitted after the completion of the road widening project last year. We will arrange to install those signs as soon as possible.

“Unfortunately, traffic surveys conducted by local, state and national transportation authorities indicate that motorist compliance with arbitrarily established speed limits including school speed limits is marginal at best thus requiring a need for continual enforcement to be effective. The false sense of security and trust associated with ineffective school speed limit signing may actually increase the potential for negative interaction between school children and motorists.

“Speed surveys have also indicated the addition of a flashing light on a SCHOOL SPEED LIMIT sign does not significantly influence motorist speeds. Because sign mounted flashing lights have questionable benefit, the Ottawa County Road Commission permits their use but does not participate in the installation or maintenance costs. West Ottawa Public Schools has been previously made aware they have the responsibility for the cost of installing and maintaining flashing beacons for school zones.

“West Ottawa Public Schools would also need to make a formal request for a school crosswalk on 136th Avenue as they would be responsible for the cost of installation and maintenance of the painted lines as well as the cost to install pedestrian facilities (sidewalk) approaching the crosswalk from both sides of the roadway.

“Please contact me if you have any further questions or comments.”

Sincerely,

Fred Keena
Traffic Engineer
Ottawa County Road Commission

West Ottawa Public Schools sent this note to families on Monday:

“Harbor Lights Families,

“This morning before school, a Harbor Lights student was struck by a car. The student is doing fine and is back in school. This unfortunate event brings to light the importance of following the safety procedures we share with our students and families on a regular basis. These procedures are as follows:

“The following is important safety information for all walkers:

  • Cross at a corner, using traffic signals and crosswalks.Try to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them. Do not assume that because you can see the driver, the driver can see you.
  • Whenever possible, always try to cross in a group or with friends. A group is more visible than a single person crossing the road.
  • Always, STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN for approaching cars. WAIT until there is no sign of traffic before crossing the road.
  • Look left, right and then left again when crossing the road. Walk, do not run, across the street.
  • Walk on the sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.
  • Be a safe pedestrian around cars.

“If you have a child who walks to school, please discuss these procedures with them on a regular basis. The safety of all students is our number one priority. Thank you for assisting us in this process.”

Sincerely,
Dennis White