In 5th Incident Since September, Car Strikes a Student Biking Home From School
FlaglerLive | December 1, 2015
Same pattern, new victim: for the fifth time in just over two months, a driver struck a student on a bike as the student was riding home from school this afternoon on Belle Terre Parkway in Palm Coast. As in three previous incidents involving vehicles against students on their bike, the driver was at fault, while the student was following the rules of the road.
The wreck took place at 1:35 p.m. when an Indian Trails Middle School 8th grader on his bike was biking across the northernmost entrance to the middle school, a clearly marked crosswalk. Stephen Large, 42, the parent of a child at Indian Trails, was at the wheel of a 2014 Toyota four-door, at the stop sign, preparing to drive onto Belle Terre, when he drove and struck Griffin Wilder, 13.
“The child went on the hood of the car, and of course the child was taken for treatment” at Florida Hospital Flagler, a Flagler County Sheriff’s spokesman said. The student was treated and released.
Large was cited for failure to yield at a crosswalk, a moving infraction that carries a fine of $166.
“We have seen a trend in these crashes, and other crashes also,” the sheriff’s office’s Jim Troiano said, referring to the previous crashes involving cyclist students this year: in every case, the student was in a crosswalk. In every case, the student had followed the rules, but the driver had not, likely failing to look left, right and left again, as it is not uncommon for a pedestrian or a cyclist to enter a crosswalk in the instants when the driver is looking the other way, even after having looked in the direction of the pedestrian or the cyclist.
“This to me certainly gores back to driver awareness. That’s a mandate,” Troiano said. “People have a responsibility when they drive their vehicle to do it responsibly.” He said students, too, must be aware of rules, right-of-way regulations and safety, something parents and the sheriff’s office can help teach.
Flagler Schools in a release this afternoon said it “would like to remind drivers and students alike to pay close attention in and around school zones as well as bus stops, especially during the time just before school is in session as well as at dismissal. Bike riders also need to wear helmets at all times. If they are unable to purchase a helmet, school administrators can make arrangements to get a helmet to any student in need of one.” (For more information contact Jason Wheeler, Information Specialist for Flagler Schools at 386/437-7526, extension 2110.)
So far this year, two students from Indian Trails Middle School and two students from Buddy Taylor Middle School have been struck by vehicles, one of them by a school bus, going back to a Sept. 21 incident on Park View Drive. A fifth incident, involving a 7-year-old girl, resulted in the girl’s death. That incident took place at a bus stop in Palm Coast’s W Section.
The rash of crashes involving students led officials from the school board and Palm Coast government to create a joint working committee to analyze possible safety improvements. The group has so far brain-stormed various ideas but hasn’t settled on any particular approach. The focus has been on students rather than on drivers, though driver error has been the primary reason for the crashes involving the four middle school students.
There’s no date set for the next meeting but one is likely before Christmas, Andy Dance, the school board member who’s been taking part in those committee meetings, said.
“If you look at the research of most of these instances,” Dance said, “they happen in areas like that like crosswalks. Crosswalks are a focal point for these conflicts. I think three of them have been in the crosswalk area. It’s clear that everybody needs to pay more attention in their surroundings, because again these things are happening in places that have been designated, so people should be paying attention at striped crosswalks.”