Houston County students have been hit by cars before school in at least three separate incidents in 2010, according to the school system and local law enforcement.
The latest of those incidents happened Sept. 20 just before 8 a.m. in Kathleen, as two female Matt Arthur Elementary students, ages 5 and 9, waited for the bus at the corner of Solomon Road and Canion Place.
The girls received medical care at The Medical Center of Central Georgia after the accident. The 5-year-old victim was still hospitalized as of Friday afternoon, said Trennis Dumas, marketing director with the Medical Center.
Making sure students waiting for buses have adult supervision is a key component to avoiding accidents, said Frank Scott, transportation director for Houston County schools. This is especially important, as bus drivers have reported unsupervised students playing around roads while they wait, he said.
“That’s number one, supervision at the bus stop,” he said. “We want the child safe.”
If parents themselves are not able to wait with the children, they should try to make arrangements so that a neighbor or other adult is keeping an eye on them, Scott said. “If you leave them unsupervised, you’re kind of asking for trouble,” he said.
If there is no adult waiting for younger students at the bus stops in the afternoon, or if parents have not given specific drop-off instructions, bus drivers are to keep the students on the bus and continue to the school where parents can pick them up, Scott said.
“Some things are under our control. A lot is not under our control,” he said.
In the Sept. 20 incident, the driver of a pickup truck hit the girls — who were sitting near the pavement without parental supervision — at 7:51 a.m. The driver said he was blinded by the sun as he drove east on Solomon Road, according to previous Telegraph reports.
The accident occurred before the school bus reached the stop.
School system officials checked on the girls at the hospital, said Beth McLaughlin, director of community and school affairs. Parents of students on the bus route also received an automated call from Principal Jolie Hardin, McLaughlin said, and a school psychologist and counselor were on hand to assist students if needed.
Those measures are part of the system’s crisis teamwork guide, created to help officials handle emergency situations, she said.
In addition, elementary school students learn bus safety tips in physical education classes and students throughout the system also have the opportunity to participate in a bus safety poster contest, McLaughlin said. The system also provides safety tips for parents, students and drivers on its website.
The most recent accident follows others that took place last month and in April.On Aug. 18, a 9-year-old Miller Elementary student was hit by a car at a bus stop at the intersection of Sunset Drive and Draper Street at 7:36 a.m., said Tabitha Pugh, public information officer for the Warner Robins Police Department.While the third-grade student was waiting to cross the road to get to the bus stop, a car ran over his foot, McLaughlin said.
The student reported pain in his left arm and both hands, Pugh said.
After the driver struck the student, the driver turned around and asked the student’s mother if he was all right, according to the police incident report. His mother said she did not know and told the driver to wait for police. The driver then left driving east on Sunset Drive.
The student had a fractured left arm and fractured right foot as a result of the accident, according to the incident report.
He was taken to the emergency room of the Houston Medical Center and released the same day, McLaughlin said.
The driver in the case has not been found and the case is still open, Pugh said.On April 14, an eighth grader from Northside Middle School was crossing Johnson Road at the intersection of Norman Lane at 7:23 a.m. when she was hit. The student, who was not walking in a marked crosswalk, was able to walk and talk after the incident. She was also taken to The Medical Center of Central Georgia and was treated for minor cuts and bruises.
Precautions for drivers, students
Both drivers and student pedestrians can take precautions to minimize accidents, Pugh said. Drivers should be aware of their surroundings and drive slowly in school zones.
Students, meanwhile, should use crosswalks when walking near the schools. Crossing guards are also on hand near schools to help students cross the street safely, she said.
“(We want to) basically make sure people understand the rules of the road,” Pugh said.
Besides these cases, drivers tend to be “conscientious” about driving through local school zones, said Capt. Robert West with the Houston County Sheriff’s Office.
“There are some issues of speeding here and there, but there’s not a major outbreak or anything like that,” West said.
In light of the accidents, drivers should be vigilant wherever they may be going, West said.
“Wherever children involved, you have to be on your toes and really watching what’s going on, not just around schools, that’s anywhere,” West said.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.