Schools, City, Police Collaborate on Crosswalk Safety

Rangers dismount to volunteer as crossing guards; police to ticket jaywalkers as well as unsafe drivers

By Dana Trumbull

On November 30, a 13-year-old student from Cactus Canyon Junior High School was struck by a car as he crossed Southern Avenue at S. Valley Dr. on his way to school. The student suffered a broken leg, and the accident ignited the concern of parents, school administrators, city officials and community members.

After studying the accident and monitoring daily pedestrian and motorist traffic, actions taken to avert future incidents include: Apache Junction Police have increased their presence and are giving tickets to drivers who exceed the school zone speed limit and/or make illegal turns. Beginning this week, police will also ticket jaywalkers. Apache Junction Unified School District has increased communications with students and families hoping to raise awareness of safety precautions. The district is also considering later start times for the 2018-19 school year.

During the AJUSD Governing Board meeting on December 12, Superintendent Dr. Krista Anderson shared some of the observations made over the weeks since the accident. “It was eye-opening for all of us. I was out there [at the intersection of Southern Ave. and S. Valley Dr.] every morning last week, working with Bryant [Powell, Apache Junction City Manager], various city council members and the chief of police. There is sufficient light, but with the way the shadows are and the kids wearing dark clothing – they’ve got their hoodies up and their ear pods on, and they’re not necessarily paying as much attention as they should; but we also have too many drivers who are not being cautious in the 15 mph zone.

“On Monday, [School Board member] Cami Garcia and I crossed about 35 kids,” continued Anderson, “but there were about 50 cars that were speeding through that area, and it was quite terrifying to see. Even after school, we have kids who are running across the street at 4:00 or 4:30, wanting to go to the basketball or soccer games – and they’re not using the crosswalks. I see cars stopping and screeching right outside my office window all the time… It is a safety issue; we need to make sure our kids are safe to and from school, every day.”

Apache Junction police officers have increased their vigilance in the school zones and note that drivers have also been pulled over for failing to stop as they come out of the Sunrise Canyon neighborhood onto Southern Ave. at S. Valley Dr.

As a temporary solution, the Apache Junction Mounted Rangers have volunteered as crossing guards at the intersection where the accident occurred. They will continue to man the post until the morning hours lighten.

The district is also considering two recommended options for a revised school calendar, proposed by a calendar committee composed of approximately 40 parents, students, district personnel and community members. Both options provide for later start times at all grade levels.

A post on the AJUSD Facebook page reminds students and parents to, “Please take extra care walking and driving near school zones. We encourage students to wear light-colored clothing and, if possible, put reflective tape on backpacks to improve visibility.” The post also reminds drivers of the 15 mph speed limit and asks students, “Please do NOT make like a reindeer and dash across the street. We want you Ho-Ho-Home safely for the holidays.”

The Apache Junction Police Department (AJPD) released a statement on December 12, as well, stating that the department “has been advised of an increase in the improper crossing (jaywalking) on Southern Ave. near Apache Junction High School and Cactus Canyon Elementary School. Numerous reports have been made of school-age people illegally walking across the roadway outside of the crosswalk in order to reach nearby businesses.

“This is an important safety concern… People may think that they can easily dodge a car, but this is not worth the risk. Everyone is encouraged to follow the laws regarding pedestrian traffic and use the marked crosswalks, most of which are located at intersections with traffic control lights. Beginning on December 18, tickets may be issued to anyone violating the Arizona Revised Statute.”

Arizona state law regarding pedestrians crossing streets states (A.R.S. 28-793, item C): “Between adjacent intersections at which traffic control signals are in operation, pedestrians shall not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.” Violation of this ordinance carries a fine of up to $300.

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