Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Distracted driver in Dunwoody causes scare at Chesnut Elementary - new crosswalk lights will be moved to main crosswalk.

Friday morning while sitting in an airport in Texas, I received information regarding this incident from a parent and I immediately reached out to Principal Veronica Williams to verify the condition of the child as well as to verify that the Dunwoody Police Department was involved.

After a detailed conversation regarding the incident and knowing that the child was safe, I notified the Dunwoody City Council, Public Works, Chief Grogan, Principal Williams, incoming DeKalb School Board Member Stan Jester and Chair of the Chesnut PTA via email that we have a real problem at Chesnut and that our collective efforts to date have been ineffective. 

After talking to numerous involved parties, it was decided that the new cross walk lights that were installed over the summer near the Southern driveway and car pool lane would soon be moved to the main cross walk directly in front of the school.   As per our Public Works Director, Mr. Michael Smith, this change will likely take place over the week of Thanksgiving break with a fall back deadline of the semester break in December.    Other items being explored are additional street lighting as well as possibly an additional school zone flashing light / sign South Bound on North Peachtree Rd near Peachford warning drivers that there is a second school in the "School Zone".  

To all the Dunwoody residents who are reading this, please be very diligent to drive safety and with extra caution when near any location where children are prevalent.  Let's set an example for those who may be passing through that we value the safety of our children.
DUNWOODY, Ga. - Dunwoody Police say they are cracking down to make sure everyone keeps their eyes on the road after a close call with a student.  The beginning and end of the school day at Chesnut Charter School is a busy time for crossing guards, but what happened last Friday morning was scary. 

“A car was approaching and failed to slow down so she had to get out and be more forceful with the sign and at that time the driver stopped within the crosswalk almost hitting a child,” said Tim Fecht with Dunwoody Police.   Witnesses say the driver may have been distracted texting. That driver kept going, but with the help of a tag number police are searching for the driver. Whoever it is faces several charges, including failure to yield to a crossing guard. 

Dunwoody Police have stepped up patrols. They say that particular area is dangerous and this is not the first brush with a car.  Parents are concerned after hearing about the latest close call with an alleged texting driver.  Police say the best thing to do is slow down and wait until you are parked to check your phone. It could save a life.


Mike Smith said...

There is and has always been a serious lack of appropriate signage/lights/etc along the entire stretch of the dual school zone along N Peachtree. Moving the lights is not going to be enough to alert drivers to slow down and remain slow through the entire zone. I suggest Dunwoody step up and be a leader of safety for these kids and ensure that traffic in the dual school zone is well aware of their location by installing more signs/lights/alerts/etc throughout the entire length of the school zone. We can do more!!!!

Kcaj said...

Why aren't DPD cars in every school zone during attendance and dismissal hours? DeKalb PD had a policy where all radar units were in school zones at those times. Is DPD too busy investigating the back of Brook Run or the PTree Ind. Quick Trip to bother helping our kids? DPD does an ok job; but as they take a 1/3 of every tax dollar, are we getting our money's worth?

Chris Kettel said...

Being an Atlanta Police Officer and someone blowing the sign the crossing guard was holding yea I would say it is an issue. I just love being nearly struck by people in a rush to work disregarding all traffic laws.

Randy Pressnall said...

John, I travel through each morning around 6:45 and home around 4:30pm. The problem I see is that both schools are being treated as one instead of the 2 different schools that they are. The start and finish times are completely different. You need to add the flashing yellow and speed limit signs between the 2 schools where the marta bus stop is. When I come home cars slow down at Chestnut when they come upon the 25mph flashing sign (at 4:30pm) but by the time they reach Peachtree they become impatient and begin to go faster as they pass Peachtree. I am sure the same thing occurs in the morning as cars coming south are slowed down before Peachtree and become impatient by the time they reach Chestnut. If you slow the cars at the appropriate spots then you will get a better response from the drivers which will make it safer.

Anonymous said...

Want to go on record here - Chesnut and Peachtree submitted a very complete joint request over 18 months ago including SPECIFIC actions/changes all through this area. This was AFTER two near-misses of kids in crosswalks, WITH ADULTS, and crossing guards. Instead of heeding the collective wisdom of school staff and parents who are intimately familiar with these schools, we all paid for an expensive study, and a complicated plan to change crosswalks patterns, over the objections of school and parent community. Why on earth is it so hard in this "smart people, smart city" place to get some common-sense changes made? Once again, it has taken a close call to get attention. Depressing.

Rose Gorham said...

I applaud the changes that are being made to make our school children safer around Chestnut School.

I also hope that the driver that almost hit this child is found and given a hefty punishment.

But I must ask where are the changes to make pedestrians safer around other schools? Particularly around DES and DHS (Womack and Vermack intersection anyone??)

I hate to cry nepotism here but it certainly does smell a little of it.

The residents around Womack and Vermack have been asking to make those crosswalks safer for a LONG time but the pleas seem to fall on deaf ears. Perhaps if a council members child went to one of these schools the results may be different. How long until one of your boys is in high school Mr. Heneghan? Is that how long we have to wait?

Joe Hirsch said...

The goal of the city should be to slow down traffic near schools. Unfortunately, Mayor Davis’ publicly stated goal is to speed up the traffic through the neighborhoods, so pedestrian safety has taken a backseat. Similar to the two schools on N. Peachtree, there are three schools on Womack that have continual safety concerns. Yet, remember earlier this year when Mayor Davis complained that the traffic director (Larry) in front of Dunwoody Elementary was slowing cars down too much? How many times have I personally emailed city council (including you John) and begged you to do something to increase pedestrian safety on Womack? And how much has been done: zero. I even sent all of council a video three days ago of a car running past a stopped school bus on Womack and it must seem routine to you, as not one council member replied. Sure, the city has just approved some money to look at some more studies or possible solutions on Womack – but your lack of action is getting old and disgusting. Why not slow the traffic down in front of the schools to a permanent 25 mph and install traffic calming devices on the road like chicanes (to force drivers to slow down)? The Dunwoody police have been doing a great job catching speeders in the school zone this year – but it has accomplished nothing. When a radar catches someone speeding near the schools, it only proves that people are using these roads as speedways when our children are walking on the streets. What are you waiting for?

SusanH said...

There is a significant difference between the pedestrian issues at Chesnut and the issues at DES/DHS. No question…traffic along Womack is dangerous for pedestrians. But the students walking to school, in particular at DES, live on the same side of Womack as DES (yes, there are a few exceptions). Larry's job at the crosswalk is mostly as traffic director for drivers coming in and out of the school, not as a crossing guard helping pedestrians cross Womack.

Contrast that with the situation at Chesnut…where the VAST MAJORITY of students who walk live in Dunwoody North and have to cross North Peachtree Rd. to get to the school…I don't think the cries of "nepotism" ring true. Yes, John is a Chesnut parent, but this reported traffic near-miss happened at Chesnut--not at DES--and as Melissa pointed out, Chesnut and Peachtree have been asking for safety help for months, after other near-misses have happened.

My point is…can we please address these issues as community issues and not cry "they're getting theirs, why can't I get mine" when positive changes are discussed? Kudos to ANY changes that happen to make walking to school a safer choice for all of our Dunwoody families.

Joe Hirsch said...

People don't have to be crossing a street for it to be unsafe on the sidewalk.

Rose Gorham said...

Unfortunately Joe they are waiting for a tragedy!!! A smart city bring run by not so smart people!

John Heneghan said...

Thanks for all of the comments, I appreciate the feedback and please let me attempt to answer a few of the points raised. Mike I agree with you and Kcaj I understand your concerns but also know there are various ways for an officer to be pulled off school patrol but as Joe states in his comments the Dunwoody police have been doing a great job catching speeders in the school zone this year therefore I know they have been busy. Chris thanks for your service. Randy that was insightful and spot on. Mel, I also feel your frustration but our traffic engineers had concerns over the car pool third lane and they wanted to get away from that, unfortunately the crossing guard work force needs increased and were not to be found. We are going back to simple and direct; it just took us time to get there.

Rose & Joe, if you remember I was an active participant in the pulling of the funding of the proposed roundabout at Vermack & Womack and I did so for two reasons. My first concern was pedestrian safety because I wanted to see if there was a way for the roundabout to stop for pedestrians if needed and second the final construction plans were not complete therefore I could not see the impact on the high school parking lot entrance nor the impact on the other three corners. Approving these draft plans without knowing the full impact would have been irresponsible. The final construction plans were sent out to be completed as they was close to being done but since then we have shifted priorities to a number of other projects that will carry us through at least 2018.

When the Vermack & Womack intersection project was active we deferred the sidewalks in that area. More recently we have prioritized other projects such as Mount Vernon Way and Hensley where there are no sidewalks now. We also prioritized Mount Vernon Road due to the opportunity presented by the water main replacement in the same area. Next year we are prioritizing Tilly Mill near the college because the road is scheduled to be paved and we anticipate a complete streets discussion.

We did have the consultant look at the Vermack & Womack intersection from a pedestrian safety perspective as part of the pedestrian safety study. Other than completing the sidewalk at some point there is not really anything else that can be done with the current intersection. The crossings are marked and protected by stop signs. The issue is more driver compliance than engineering.

Joe, as per your request to lower the speed limit on Womack, I have already explored that option in 2012 and could not get much traction for a reduction.

Susan, thank you for the support but I believe my actions over the last six years speak for themselves. I am an at large member of the Dunwoody City Council, elected by all registered voters within the community and hopefully people recognize that. On the flip side, I may also be personally active on issues I see every day but that is normal and it is the reason we have seven councilors who live in various communities throughout the city.

Anonymous said...

John - thanks for replying here to all the comments - this is the fun part of your job, I'm sure. ;-) It's been 18 months since Chesnut and PCMS sent their document to the City - I am not referring only to what happened this summer (which by itself, was not handled well). Mike is exactly correct in his statement that moving the lights won't be enough -- that's why our requests were much more complete. Once again, is it because we don't have a degree in engineering that the proposals of the people who see these problems EVERY day can't be taken into account? I understand that not everything we proposed is possible, given constraints of budget and other logistics we aren't privy to, but really... perhaps someone could look at this doc again? Two schools teamed parents and DSCD folks to come up with something we felt would actually have a chance to improve things - reduction of sign "pollution", clearly marking the double school zone area top, middle, and bottom, etc.

Rose Gorham said...

John.Thanks for your comments. I appreciate that you were one of the council members who voted against the very UNSAFE roundabout that was proposed for the Vermack and Womack intersection.

I have to disagree when you say that nothing more can be done to help with pedestrian safety there. More signage could be put up. Flashing lights to warn drivers that pedestrians are crossing. A crossing guard to help pedestrians cross at peak times (Larry Adams wanted to do this but was blocked?)

You say apart from completing the sidewalks there is nothing more than can be done. How about completing the sidewalks!! Novel idea I know! But that would be another idea for making it safer for pedestrians.

The road opposite DHS was torn up and instead of sidewalks being put in (a perfect opportunity to do it) the road was put back exactly as it was and new grass was laid down??

It gets very frustrating when our city council keeps saying that are interesting in slowing down traffic and giving pedestrians priority and simple solutions which would help are ignored!

John Heneghan said...

Thank you Melissa, I am attaching a link to the joint submission that Chesnut and PCMS previously sent to the city regarding requested traffic improvements.

I will send a copy separately to Public Works and Council as back ground information.