A change in school zone flashing light times and the placement of a speed indicator are among the first steps North Thurston Public Schools and the city of Lacey have taken to improve crosswalk safety on Sixth Avenue Northeast.
The crosswalk, between Sleater-Kinney Road and College Street, was the site of an accident early Jan. 29 when a North Thurston High School student was struck by a vehicle and seriously injured.
Lacey police declined to comment about the specifics of the incident because it’s an open investigation. The Olympian has requested that report.
The student’s grandmother, Denice Lambkins, contacted The Olympian by email about the incident. Subsequent attempts to reach her were unsuccessful. KIRO-TV reported that Khiarah Bonin was hit at 6:55 a.m. Jan. 29. The impact “shattered her pelvis, dislocated her kneecaps, broke her femur and opened a wound on her head requiring staples to close,” according to the KIRO-TV story, which reported the driver of the SUV that hit Khiarah was cooperating with police.
“We’re glad she’s going to recover, but she has a long road ahead,” said Courtney Schrieve, spokeswoman for North Thurston Public Schools.
The crosswalk is near school zone flashing lights that tell drivers to slow to 20 miles per hour from 25 mph before, during and after the school day. But the lights had been set to the Chinook Middle School’s schedule — the crosswalk is closer to the middle school — so they flashed between 8:50 and 9:35 a.m. before school begins at 9:40 a.m. Both schools are on the south side of Sixth Avenue with a residential subdivision on the north side.
Since the incident, the flashing lights at the Sixth Avenue crosswalk and one on Kasey Keller Drive have been switched to the high school’s schedule and will begin flashing as early as 6:45 a.m., Schrieve said.
Lacey police also placed a speed indicator at the Sixth Avenue crosswalk, which tells motorists how fast they’re going and acts as a reminder to slow down.
Other short-term solutions could include the addition of a crossing guard, Schrieve said. A longer-term solution might include a crosswalk that lights up when a pedestrian pushes a button before crossing, she said.
“It’s extremely important for students to have a safe route to school,” Lacey Police Chief Dusty Pierpoint said, adding that road improvements or engineering could be part of the solution.
Until the Jan. 29 incident, there had been reports of speeding and close calls, but nothing on record of someone getting hit at the Sixth Avenue crosswalk, Schrieve said.
“And we don’t want it to happen again,” she said.
The following is the new school zone flashing light schedule for North Thurston High School and Chinook Middle School:
▪ Regular school day schedule: 6:45 to 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 to 4:15 p.m.
▪ Early release day schedule: 6:45 to 9:30 a.m. and 12:15 to 3 p.m.
▪ Half-day schedule: 6:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. On half days, the high school is out at 10:30 a.m.; the middle school, 12:20 p.m.