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David Minton

Accidents spur calls for sidewalks

Profile image for By Britney Tabor
By Britney Tabor

Girl hit by car on way to Ryan High prompts mother to seek action

Dawn Carlin got the phone call no parent wants to get — her 15-year-old daughter had been hit by a car.

It was shortly after 8 a.m. Monday, about the time her daughter Faith, the middle child of five, starts her walk to school. Carlin had not yet logged in at work at her Lewisville office when she received a call from someone with a 214 area code. The number was one she didn’t recognize but she decided to pick up anyway.

A woman on the other end asks, “Is this Faith’s mother?” The woman goes on to say, “Faith has been hit by a vehicle.”

“Is she bleeding?” Carlin asks. The woman says, “Yes.”

Carlin stood up at her desk.

“Oh my God! What do you mean she’s been hit?” she asks the caller. “Where?”

The accident occurred a few hundred feet from Ryan High School. Faith, who was walking eastbound in the 5100 block of McKinney Street to the school along the roadway’s shoulder, was struck by a car driven at a low speed by a 71-year-old Denton man.

Faith was walking up the street on the shoulder as close as she could to the grass, and before she got to the intersection at the school’s entrance, she was hit.

“I didn’t really realize what happened until I landed,” Faith said. “I flew, and I was kind of spinning around a bit. I knew something hit [me]. I know I was standing forward and something hit me from behind.”

People began to stop their cars and circle around her. They asked if she was OK. One man called out for someone else to call 911. Another woman, whom she didn’t know, called her mother.

On the other end of the phone line, Carlin began thinking to herself, “How fast was the car going?”

“I lost it,” she said. “I left everything.”

She said she was beside herself, and her boyfriend had to drive her to where her daughter was. She talked to her daughter by phone before Faith was taken to Denton Regional Medical Center with minor scrapes and bruises. Faith assured her mom she was OK.

Faith remained in the hospital four to five hours before being discharged.

“She was very fortunate,” Carlin said.

On Wednesday, the high school freshman, still a little sore and bruised, returned to class.

Faith is the second Ryan High student in the past 11 months to be hit by a vehicle while walking eastbound on McKinney to school.

And on Wednesday, a middle school-age boy was struck by a pickup while riding his bicycle shortly before 8 a.m. in the 3100 block of North Bell Avenue and was taken to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Denton with minor injuries, said Kenneth Hedges, Denton Fire Department spokesman.

Carlin said one thought came to mind upon learning her daughter wasn’t the first injured on McKinney — “righteous indignation.”

“There has to be something as a city or a county that we can do to help intervene in this circumstance,” Carlin said. “Something has to be done to stop the bleeding, so to speak.”

She called council member Keely Briggs for help. Ryan High is within her district. A mother herself, Briggs said she couldn’t imagine getting a call that her child had been hurt.

“Needless to say, I was upset,” Briggs said. “It’s unfortunate, and I want to prevent any phone calls like that from happening again. The sooner, the better.”

Briggs said she’s called the police chief for a copy of Monday’s police report. She also called the city manager and assistant city manager for help on what the city could do and to ask the status of the road project to widen McKinney and put in sidewalks.

Plans to widen the roadway and potentially install sidewalks have been on the books for quite some time, but so far, no construction on the project has started.

A Texas Department of Transportation spokesman told the Denton Record-Chronicle earlier this summer that a project design was in the works. The design calls for a four-lane roadway with a median divider 1.4 miles west of Loop 288 and 1.1 miles east of the loop beyond the high school near the Ashli Oaks mobile home park.

Once the design is complete and funding is available, TxDOT estimated that construction could begin as early as 2018. Whether there are sidewalks in an area would be depend on the availability of right of way, TxDOT told the Record-Chronicle.

Briggs said Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune told her the project still needs federal funding, and that it won’t happen soon, and by soon, she means maybe a year or two from now. Fortune could not be reached for comment by press time Wednesday.

“If there had been sidewalks, it probably could have been avoided,” Briggs said.

When asked if the city would do something to keep children safe walking down McKinney while the city waits for TxDOT to complete McKinney Street’s road project, Briggs responded, “I hope so.”

She said she’s not quite sure what that might entail, but they’re “exploring all interim options,” she said.

“I am going to ask that very question. If we get enough people asking, then maybe we’ll get an answer,” she said. “If there is something that we can do in the meantime, I’m definitely going to advocate for that.”

Having a student injured while walking to school is troubling to Vernon Reeves, Ryan High principal.

“It’s concerning any time our students are involved in a serious accident of that magnitude,” he said. “It’s just very [concerning] to Raider Nation when you have a student trying to do everything they’re supposed to do. They’ll get up early and try to get to school, and they’re injured trying to do the right thing.”

Reeves said school officials will be happy when details are worked out for establishing sidewalks along McKinney.

In the meantime, all the district can do is educate students and their parents about pedestrian and bike safety, the importance of getting children to and from school safely, and remain in constant communication with the city regarding the issue, Denton ISD Superintendent Jamie Wilson said.

The safety of the roadway along McKinney has been an issue brought up repeatedly for nearly 20 years.

Earlier this summer, Briggs and fellow council member Dalton Gregory revived efforts to advocate for TxDOT to make road improvements on McKinney beyond Ryan High a top priority.

While the school has sidewalks on its property, the stretch of road beyond the school has narrow shoulders and no sidewalks.

City officials have said that on days when it’s wet, students have to walk on the McKinney pavement to and from school, and on dry days they walk in grassy borrow ditches alongside the road.

Last October, a 16-year-old girl traveling east on McKinney to school was struck by a pickup attempting to make a right turn at the intersection of Mayhill Road and McKinney. She was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries.

The driver didn’t stop to render aid after the accident and is still at large. Officer Ryan Grelle, a Denton police spokesman, said there are few leads in the case.

Months prior to the accident last October, residents and school officials urged a city committee to consider adding sidewalks on McKinney beyond the high school to its slate of projects considered for the 2014 bond package.

The project was not added to the bond package presented to voters in November.

Reeves said the city was already aware of its request for sidewalks leading to the school. It’s been a topic of discussion since the school opened on McKinney Street in 1996.

Carlin said she’d like to see changes in the ordinance or law that would no longer allow cars to pass on the shoulder in a school zone where there are no sidewalks.

She said she’d also like to see the school district offer transportation to students who have to walk to and from school on McKinney.

“Having a safe place to go and a safe path for the journey, it doesn’t seem like it’s a huge cost,” she said.

Details as to whether the man who hit Faith will face charges were not available Wednesday from Denton police because the accident is still under investigation. But Carlin has decided her daughter will no longer walk to school.

“If a car can pass where there’s no sidewalk on the shoulder and they may not see children, who’s to say it won’t happen again and again and again, and for how long?” Carlin said. “I still worry, though. I am not going to take that risk anymore.”

Staff writer Megan Gray-Hatfield contributed to this report.

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.

In The Know

Read more about the need to improve McKinney Street on the Denton Record-Chronicle website at http://bit.ly/1JC9Oqr.