12 NEWS DEFENDERS: MPD holds street crossing safety seminars at - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

12 NEWS DEFENDERS: MPD holds street crossing safety seminars at schools


Earlier this week, the 12 News Defenders responded to viewer complaints about children darting in and out of traffic around Montgomery schools instead of using crosswalks.

WSFA 12 News crews captured speeding drivers, students goofing off in busy roadways, cars slamming on their brakes to avoid hitting children, and students ignoring crosswalks and traffic lights around Lee High School, Capitol Heights Middle School and Bellingrath Middle School. These were areas viewers identified as "problematic" spots.

"These kids are not only endangering themselves, but putting the drivers and passengers in the cars at risk. What they do could cause cars to hit them, hit other cars, hit other people, or tear up property along the roadway while dodging the kids," one viewer wrote on Facebook.

The story has parents talking to their children about their safety.

"I always tell them to be alert and aware and to watch out for themselves," one parent said after seeing the story.

Now, Montgomery police are stepping in and taking what they call "extreme, proactive measures" to tackle the problem. 

Montgomery police officers conducted street crossing safety seminars Friday, speaking to students at Lee High School, Capitol Heights Middle School and Bellingrath Middle School. The officers said they were "shocked and appalled" by the footage they saw on WSFA and they didn't sugarcoat their message to students, using images from real crash scenes to show that risky behavior while crossing the street can have dangerous and deadly consequences.

"That's somebody's body that did that. You have to think, if your body can do that to a car, how bad of a shape is your body going to be in," said Cpt. R.E. Lewis as he pulled up photos of damaged cars. "One thing all of those cars had in common is that in every single case, the pedestrian was at fault. In every single one, the pedestrian was thrown 50 feet in the air before they got back down. The car has the right of way on the roadway. You do not. And the car wins every time."

Officers told the students that most pedestrian collisions occur Monday through Friday, between 3 and 4 p.m. -- the timeframe when a lot of students are making their way home from school.

"A lot of you are texting, talking on the phone and not paying attention and that's where the safety issue comes in," said Lt. Charlie Oliver, commander of MPD's School Enforcement Bureau. "You may say, 'Well this car, he better not hit me.' I know I've heard that but you have to understand this- if you're not in the crosswalk, somewhere where it's legal to cross, you're at fault. And if you get killed, then your parents are going to end up burying you and paying for that person's car that you damaged.

On Thursday at Capitol Heights Middle School, patrol officers were helping students cross the street safely.

Speed cars, high tech squad cars equipped with digital cameras that snap pictures of violators, have also been placed in school zones.

"They're designed to measure speed of motorists in an area and photograph the potential violator. And that information is transferred and processed and is in turn, translated into a violation that will be mailed out to that person that could have a monetary fine," said Sgt. BJ Champlin with the Accident Investigation Office, part of the Montgomery Police Department's Traffic Division.

From the time our story first aired on Tuesday, the speed cars captured nearly 700 drivers going too fast in school zones.

"We want folks to know that we're out there and ultimately to be more aware and slow down, look, anticipate someone walking out in front of you. That's why the speed limit is set so low in school zones and neighbors, to give drivers time to react," Champlin said.

But police say fixing the problem is a two-way street and pedestrians also need to be aware and responsible.

"We hope this will spark the interest in parents to have the conversation with their children about how they need to cross the road and that they need to look before they cross and not just assume that a car is going to stop for them. They're in this for their safety also," Sgt. Champlin said. "We're encouraging motorists to work together with pedestrians to be safe and part of that is awareness and deterrence and enforcement. It all kind of goes hand in hand."

Lee High School continues to mourn the death of 16-year-old Alex Bridgman. Two weeks ago, he was struck and killed while returning from a school field trip. Bridgman was hit by a pick up truck near the intersection of Cahaba Valley Road and Cahaba Valley Parkway in Pelham, part of a group of students returning to Montgomery from a field trip to Huntsville. Another student who was trying to cross the street with Bridgman was also hit, receiving minor injuries. The group had stopped for a dinner break in the Birmingham suburb at the time of the accident.

And in 2012, a 16-year-old student was seriously injured when she was hit by a car while crossing the street in front of the high school. Officials say she was in a designated crosswalk when she was hit.

Police also discussed an accident this past fall in Montgomery near the intersection of Carmichael Road and Eastern Boulevard involving a 15-year-old girl. Lt. Oliver told WSFA she was waiting for her school bus when she was hit by a car and she passed away a month after the accident from her injuries.

Lee High School's principal Lorenza Pharrams says there are more than 1,000 students who walk home from the school each day.

"Some of those precautionary measures that were learned early on, we want to make certain that we're doing a good job of reinforcing those," Pharrams said. "We want to make sure that they understand that there are some dangers out there and they need to make certain that they're doing everything they can to ensure their own safety as they walk home."

Officials say the effort to fix the problem is ongoing and takes cooperation from all sides.

Copyright 2014 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

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