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Injury to Student Prompts Call for School Zone Safety Review

Longfellow seventh-grader suffered broken leg when driver passed car stopped for crossing guard.

Ald. Bobby Pantuso called Wednesday for a review of school zone safety after an accident Monday morning that left a student with a broken leg.

A school crossing guard was in position just after 7:30 a.m. on Wauwatosa Avenue at West Wright Street with a handheld stop sign and had stopped one southbound car while the 12-year-old boy was crossing. Another southbound driver failed to see the crossing guard and passed the stopped car on the right, striking the boy, according to Wauwatosa police.

The driver, a 55-year-old woman, told police she thought the car was stopped to make a left turn. She said she drove that route nearly every day and was aware that it is a school zone.

Another driver going south behind her said she did see the crossing guard enter the street to halt traffic with his stop sign in clear view, assisting the boy. She described seeing the accident, saying the boy did a "complete flip in the air before hitting the ground."

The boy was taken to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, where he was treated for a compound fracture. He told police that he waited until the crossing guard had stopped traffic and motioned for him to cross. When he saw the car headed for him, he said, all he could do was close his eyes and look away.

The driver was issued a municipal citation for passing a vehicle stopped for a pedestrian.

Pantuso, who represents the 5th District, wrote to the mayor, police chief, school superintendent and members of the city's Traffic and Safety Committee asking that a discussion be started about how such accidents can be better prevented. He also cited a June accident in front of Eisenhower Elementary School in which a 4, suffering slight injuries.

"It is time for the city and the Wauwatosa School District to come together and form a plan to implement prevention measures. We cannot afford for this to happen again," he wrote.

City Administrator Jim Archambo responded quickly that he would forward Pantuso's concerns to the city clerk for inclusion on the agenda of the next Traffic and Safety meeting on Nov. 29.

Archambo also said that the city was working with the school district on safety issues on West Center Street fronting Eisenhower, and . The city has sent out a request for proposals for a safety evaluation of the corridor, he said.

jbw November 10, 2011 at 01:12 AM
After walking around town regularly for more than a decade, I can say with authority that many people drive like this all the time. I've had plenty of close calls from cars illegally entering the intersection while I'm in the crosswalk. I see a few cars run red lights (not recently turned red either) every day. And lots of people in a driveway or at an intersection waiting to make a turn with their head locked firmly in the opposite direction so they can speed away at the first opening in traffic - and insuring they would run right over me while I'm crossing in front of them. I believe the driver neglected to add that she didn't see the crossing guard because she didn't bother to look. She was so angry at the car in front of her slowing down and disrupting her commute that she gunned it into a high-speed pass without ever viewing the road in front of her. I see a lot of that, too.
Jim Price November 10, 2011 at 02:07 AM
jbw, you are absolutely right, there are a lot of inattentive and/or negligent drivers out there. I always slow down in school zones, and it seems to irritate about 50% of the people behind me. My kids went to Jefferson, where there was an injury accident to a kid some years ago (granted, he crossed in the middle of the block rather than at the guarded corner, but still...). I'd like to hear from others about their school zones. I know there was an accident at Wilson a couple of years ago and another near Madison more recently. Is your school zone safe?
Ray Ray Johnson November 10, 2011 at 12:30 PM
That school zone is clearly posted 20MPH when the yellow caution lights are flashing. 20. Not 25, not 30. It is impossible to miss the school zone sign; it's right over the street. It is clearly marked 20 MPH when flashing. Maybe what we need is a zero-tolerance policy when those lights are flashing-no 5 MPH cushion. over 20 between the flashing lights gets you a secial $400, 4-point ticket with a special driver's re-education class. On a snarky note, I can't believe we let just anybody propel a 2000 missile filled with anywhere between .1 and 25 gal of liquid explosives just anywhere and in front of a school. Maybe there should be tougher standards for handing out driver's licenses. We can't have crazy people shooting missiles filled with explosives all over town! This boy got his leg broke by such a propelled missile! A guy from Butler was killed by one on Capitol Dr. When will the missile crazy crowd and their powerful lobby be checked? The drivers license/missile operator standards are way too lax, and I don't sleep well at night knowing that missiles are flying all over town when my kids are trying to get to and from school.
Garden Diva November 10, 2011 at 12:50 PM
Too many people drive in a mental fog and fail to be aware of their surroundings, past their nose. I will never forget the comment made by a colleague at work when she said she suddenly realized she was home. She couldn't remember the drive all the way home! I also live near Jefferson, the traffic on 68th is only determined to keep driving. There is little common sense applied to allow people to cross the street or park a car at the intersection of 68th and Wells. This impatience extends into the neighborhoods on either side of 68th st. when people cut through the neighborhood to avoid the stoplights on Wells and Wisconsin. Drivers see the red light and cut down Maple Terrace or Cedar to cut the light at high rates of speed. The kids coming home from school are put into extreme danger trying to cross at the corner of Maple Terrace and Cedar. Cars do not even slow down at the uncontrolled intersection, they just fly through. Yield to pedestrians, what's that? Yield to the right of way, what's that? My heart was in my throat when I saw a child on a bike go racing through the intersection without looking for cars. There are too many close calls and I dread the day when we have a major injury. I tried to get a stop sign years ago and was told there are not enough accidents to justify a sign! We are going to try again with a new petition and the help of our alderman Dennis McBride.
Michele Braze November 10, 2011 at 01:45 PM
I believe that as long as drivers ed is no longer part of the curriculum at our high schools and driving while chatting is accepted we're going to see more accidents like this one. Until a "Mothers Against Cell Phone Drivers" group forms pedestrians and attentive drivers, you're on your own!
Ray Ray Johnson November 10, 2011 at 01:48 PM
Then again, cars don't kill/injure people; people kill/injure people.
Joseph November 10, 2011 at 03:33 PM
The driver was a 55 year old woman. Learning the rules of the road are basic and can be read in a book, however, putting them in practice is another matter. If people would get better driving instruction, like they do in Finland, we wouldn't see nearly as many accidents.
Mitch November 10, 2011 at 05:08 PM
that child was a friend of my son's and thank goodness he'll be ok but the traffic around Longfellow is CRAZY. The PARENTS dropping off their own students should have their heads examined, they double park on North Ave (at rush hour) and pull out without looking, they stop in NO STOPPING zones to drop off their kids and they could EASILY drive around to the back of the school to do it. It's not only the "other" drivers out there but the parents as well. I'm scared to be in the vicinity at beginning and ending times but since I take my child to school occasionally it's inevitable. When he walks I fear for his life and I CONSTANTLY tell my kids to watch out for cars cause drivers DO NOT watch out for you. They have learned a very valuable (and sad/scary) lesson not that a dear friend was injured.
Mitch November 10, 2011 at 05:09 PM
sorry that should have read "NOW that a dear friend was injured"
Archie November 10, 2011 at 06:29 PM
Another part of the problem is drivers using the parking/bus lane as a driving lane. This is problem on parts of Wauwatosa Ave., North Ave. and Milwaukee Ave., as I'm sure other streets. There have been accidents at Washington, as well. I witnessed a young boy hit at Lloyd and 68th with a guard AND 4-way stop. And a few years ago a student was hit crossing at North and 76th with a guard. I don't know why there isn't increased police presence during the morning rush at school crossings. I don't agree that drivers ed would change things - the incidents I cited as well the most recent were middle aged drivers.
Jeff November 10, 2011 at 07:45 PM
Hello Jim and everyone. I just happen to have a front row seat at all this mess. I'm currently the crossing guard on the northwest corner of 76TH and North Ave. Mornings and afternoons, the cars run red lights constantly. And in the process of doing so, they get stuck with their cars totally across the crosswalk. If there is room behind the vehicle, I motion to them to back up before I walk kids across. Some of them look at me like they are too important to back-up. And parents are dropping the kids off in the weirdest of places, at the lights, and daily, in the turning lanes. And everyone out there, don't pull up at the light, and try to make an illegal right hand turn. There is a lane with a stop sign for this. Also, when the kids are about to enter the short crosswalk to get to me, drivers are blocking the crosswalk where the kinds are supposed to walk. The stop sign means nothing to these people. They act like it's such a hassle to have to stop for kids. PEOPLE! SETTLE DOWN! Because you know what, they have the right of way. And parents, stop making illegal U-turns at the light. And when you are double parked in front of the school, put your hazards on, so eastbound traffic knows what you are doing there. Thank-you.
Jim Price November 10, 2011 at 08:14 PM
Great information, Jeff, and a real eye-opening message about the many hazardous driving practices you see every day in your job.
Andrew November 10, 2011 at 08:15 PM
We double the fines in work zones, why not in school zones? On top of it, this woman was a NURSE!! You would think seeing injuries and pain all day long would make someone stop and think. Too self absorbed to think of anyone else I guess.
Jeff November 10, 2011 at 08:27 PM
That sentence should have ended with, "where the kids are supposed to walk".
Tosamom November 11, 2011 at 01:05 AM
Congratulations Ald. Pantuso for watching out and caring for the youngest of your constituency. I hope the rest of the council sits up and takes notice for a job well done. Who knows. . . Maybe even the mayor will call and thank you.
John November 16, 2011 at 06:22 AM
I suppose this story is already a bit old, but as the father of the child who was struck it is going to last a while for us. My son is recovering and he will probably go back to school next week or the following. He will have one more surgery in about 6 months to remove the hardware in his leg. This morning I recorded some of the traffic at the crosswalk where my son was struck: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8loomDuHTE The video doesn't show anyone ignoring the crossing guard, but does show a rather common practice of passing cars stopped at the crosswalk. Not seen in the video, but the police were active in this area during the time I was present and I did see them pull over two vehicles for passing cars while the crossing guard had stopped traffic. Hopefully something can be done to make this area safer for pedestrians.
Garden Diva November 16, 2011 at 12:52 PM
After watching the video, it appears that an easy solution is to not allow left turns at that intersection during a specified time. That would certainly prevent drivers from going around the stopped cars that they think may be turning left when in reality they may be stopped for a pedestrian and not know it.
Jeff November 21, 2011 at 07:18 PM
In my last sentence of my comment, I was referring to westbound traffic. Jeff.
Jenny Smith December 08, 2011 at 06:21 PM
I am a parent who drops her son off at Longfellow daily. I will drop him off in the front if I am able to pull all the way over to the curb, if not we go to the back of the school. A common problem among drivers is speed and ignorance. I'm not sure of the fix for current drivers who feel annoyed by slowing down for humans crossing in front of them but I do know that I will teach, by practice, my children how to drive with consideration. Instead of parking checkers giving silly parking tickets we need them to give tickets to drivers who don't slow down in crosswalks!

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