With the national conversation on school safety currently centered on firearms, one Albemarle County parent is trying to draw attention to vehicle safety.
On March 1, Vanessa Crawford’s sixth-grade daughter was struck by a car in the road between Henley Middle School and Brownsville Elementary. A parent had waved her daughter across and neither had seen the car coming, Crawford said.
The girl’s right leg was bruised badly enough that even three weeks later she can’t put any weight on it and has to wear an orthopedic boot.
Crawford, who described the incident as the scariest moment of her life, has been demanding action from the middle school.
“There needs to be a crosswalk there at a minimum, but ideally a crossing guard and a flashing sign, as well,” she said.
The main road between the two schools used to have a painted crosswalk, which was paved over during spring 2017, according to Jim Foley, the Albemarle school division’s director of transportation.
“Our records show that our building services department contracted to have some curb work done at this site,” Foley said. “They noticed that some repair work was required on the asphalt, so they went ahead and did the repair.”
Incidents like what happened to Crawford’s daughter are extremely rare, Foley said. The school division’s insurance company has not been able to find any other claims related to vehicle/pedestrian collisions, Foley said.
Crawford, who has started a Change.org petition to improve traffic safety around the school, said other parents have shared similar cases where their students were almost hit.
“Since I’ve started the petition, I’ve had several parents tell me the same thing almost happened to their child,” she said. “It really scares you.”
Though the incident was ruled a “no-fault accident,” Foley said the middle school’s insurance would cover the cost of Crawford’s daughter’s injuries.
However, Crawford said she hasn’t received any financial assistance yet and the bills have begun to add up.
“My daughter is missing a lot of school because of medical appointments, and our bills are close to $5,000,” she said.
State routes — like 9886, where the incident at Henley occurred) — that exist on public school properties are typically managed by the Virginia Department of Transportation, said Joel DeNunzio, administrator for VDOT’s Charlottesville residency. This is done mainly because of snow plowing, and often the maintenance is done by the county, like in this case, he said.
However, VDOT does have plans to reinstall the crosswalk as soon as possible, DeNunzio said. There had been plans to do it earlier in the month, but low temperatures weren’t conducive for the Duroplastic they use.
“We will ideally get the crosswalk installed by the end of March, along with some signage warning drivers to watch for pedestrians,” DeNunzio said.
The reinstallation is scheduled for Saturday, weather permitting, Foley said.