Speeders on County BE present risk to children

Bonduel schools report one vehicle collision with student, one near miss as officials seek solution
By: 
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

School zones are a maximum of 15 miles per hour when there are children around, but folks driving along County Road BE in Bonduel are forgetting that.

The Bonduel School Board signed off Jan. 8 on the job description for crossing guards, and now Superintendent Joe Dawidziak is looking for volunteers to help keep track of the crosswalks at the public schools. If the crossing guards make a difference in keeping students safe, according to Dawidziak, the district will look at potentially making them paid positions.

The decision to find crossing guards comes on the heels of an incident the week before when an elementary student was hit by a vehicle. According to Dawidziak, camera footage shows that the students did everything right, including looking both ways for oncoming traffic and activating the flashing lights indicating someone was entering the crosswalk.

“On video, it looks really, really bad,” Dawidziak said. “In reality, it wasn’t that bad. The student was obviously hurt but was in school the next day and, to my knowledge, has been fine since.”

Dawidziak said the student did not suffer major injury and is back in school, but the incident occurred in spite of other steps taken during the school after another incident earlier in the fall when a dump truck came close to hitting two other students. He said those students also did everything right before starting to cross County BE.

Once that incident occurred, Dawidziak reached out to the Shawano County Sheriff’s Department and asked for deputies to conduct periodic speed traps. He noted that one of the drivers on County BE the first week of January was clocked at 47 mph by law enforcement.

Dawidziak said he is reaching out to see if people are interested in watching the County BE intersection and also the Bonduel Elementary School crosswalk on Mill Street, and there appears to be interest.

“Nothing’s really happened yet,” Dawidziak said. “It’s scary to watch (the video), but from the beginning of the year until now, I’ve had multiple people say to me, ‘Hey, Joe, if you ever need somebody to do that, I’d be interested in volunteering.’”

Dawidziak posted information on Facebook about the incident, as well as Skylert, the district’s method of communicating with parents on various issues. He said he’s received an “influx” of ideas to examine what else can be done to slow down traffic and prevent any other students from being struck by vehicles.

The speed traps are expected to continue, but Dawidziak said that’s only effective for a short period of time, so it’s important to develop something long term that will make the risk of a crash negligible.

“Some of the things we can do on our end is educating our students better about the crosswalk and proper protocol,” Dawidziak said, noting the students involved in the two incidents likely learned safety procedures from home, as the Bonduel public schools don’t have any organized training in place. “Just because you hit the button and the lights come on, you should still look out for traffic and you shouldn’t cross if there are cars coming.”

Even though there were one near incident and one actual collision, Dawidziak said he’s being told by parents and community members that there are other incidents of near collisions and witnessing other drivers mow through the area that he wasn’t aware of.

Reading from an email he received, the writer told him: “I was about 50 feet from the crosswalk. I saw a child almost by it, so I slowed down and stopped. The kid pressed the button and the crosswalk lights started to come on. To my surprise, the car behind me made a slight right to pass me and passed the crosswalk, luckily missing the child. I was so mad that, once the child completed his cross, tried to speed up and tooted my horn to get (the driver’s) attention. I wanted to get his license plate and call 911.”

“Parents are seeing it, too,” Dawidziak said after reading the letter. “We didn’t know about it. I think the idea of grabbing license plates is a good one and something I hadn’t thought of before.”

Local residents might be oblivious to the school zone because they’ve traveled that road so much when there weren’t students around, in Dawidziak’s view. However, he noted that there have been times where vehicles with out-of-state license plates have rushed through the zone, so it’s not just a local driver issue.

“That’s not unique to here,” Dawidziak said. “That’s really everywhere. Sometimes you’re just not thinking about it.”

Dawidziak said it’s possible the district might also talk with Bonduel village officials to determine if the crosswalks are in the right places or if something needs to be done to move them to safer intersections.

One suggestion Dawidziak received included setting up some red and blue flashing lights, similar to police vehicles but also trailers clocking how fast vehicles are driving to force them to slow down for fear there might be law enforcement ready to hand out tickets.

“It’s just normal human reaction. No one wants to get pulled over,” Dawidziak said.

lpulaski@newmedia-wi.com