SAN ANTONIO (Aug. 19, 2014) – Today, District 9 City Councilman Joe Krier filed a Council Consideration Request (CCR) that he has been working on to “direct the Transportation & Capital Improvements Department to provide City Council with a comprehensive report assessing school zone traffic safety throughout the City.” The CCR was signed by Councilman Mike Gallagher, Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales, Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran, and Councilman Ray Lopez (See Attached).
“School zone safety is not an issue for just one Council District. We need to make sure all of our school zones are as safe as possible,” said Councilman Krier.
Councilman Krier included in the CCR that the City should take a look at the full inventory of traffic and pedestrian features such as sidewalks, signage, crosswalks and flashing beacons and examine any other improvements needed in school zones across San Antonio.
“We need to determine what is needed, what it costs and how long it will take to complete needed improvements. With school starting next week, this is an excellent time to take action to help make sure that all our school zones are as safe as possible,” said Councilman Krier.
The action taken today comes seven months after school zone safety jumped to the top of the Councilman’s priorities. Two months after Krier was appointed to his position in District 9, tragedy struck in one of the school zones in District 9. Nine-year-old Tatyana Babineaux was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver while walking to Larkspur Elementary School on Braesview in the early morning hours of January 15, 2014. Though the accident didn’t occur in the school zone crosswalk, Councilman Krier, Gina Babineaux (Tatyana’s mother), and other key leaders who met to discuss the issue decided that Braesview needed several upgrades in the school zone to increase the overall visibility and safety of the school zone. The key leaders, who included North East Independent School District (NEISD) Superintendent Brian Gottardy and San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, agreed to conduct a joint School Zone Safety Public meeting with Councilman Krier. Gina Babineaux also attended the meeting in May and said she hoped that her attendance, coupled with the panel’s message, would help spread the desire to make San Antonio children safer to other school zones besides Larkspur without another tragic accident and loss like she has had to endure.
Several other positive initiatives came out of the Babineaux tragedy and the subsequent School Zone Safety Public Meeting that are nearing fruition:
1. The Braesview/Larkspur Elementary School Zone upgrades are almost complete. Construction began in March 2014 and with the final installation of the last few static, fluorescent yellow signs, the project will be completed in its entirety by Aug. 22, 2014, in time for the new school year (see attached chart for the Transportation & Capital Improvements Department's total upgrade). The most dramatic change to the area, in addition to the static signs being upgraded to fluorescent yellow and tree trimming to improve sign visibility, is the completion of the overhead flashing beacon school zone signs and mast arms which should bring a heightened awareness that drivers are in a school zone and need to practice hyper vigilance to ensure child safety. These improvements may not have stopped this one hit-and-run driver, but it is the Councilman’s hope that overall safety for area children as they walk to and from school will be much-improved.
2. During the May School Zone Safety Meeting, concerned resident, Jill Rudik brought to Councilman Krier’s attention the issue of cell phone use by drivers in the Coker Elementary School Zone. Rudik, who crafted a visual representation of the ‘No Cell Phone Use’ law (see attached photo), asked the Councilman to consider installing these more visual reminders so that drivers stop using their cell phones in the school zones. Since the meeting, the Councilman’s office reached out to Coker Principal Tiffany Gill to discuss the issue. Gill acknowledged that cell phone use has been an issue in the past, not just in the school zone crosswalk but also by parents dropping off their students.
"Maybe parents don't realize that the No Cell Phone Use law applies to them any time they are in their vehicles on school property, which includes dropping off and picking up their students, as well as when they are in the crosswalks or driving by the school," said Gill, Principal of Coker Elementary since 2011.
Because the visual representation of the No Cell Phone Use sign is non-standard as per the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, the Council office was unable to get this sign made through the City’s Transportation & Capital Improvements Department. Therefore, Councilman Krier entered into a verbal agreement with Gill that if she and the North East Independent School District would arrange for the signs to be installed on Coker property, outside of the City's right of way, then Krier would use his District 9 discretionary funds to pay for the two signs that are required.
“I am interested in ensuring that not only Mrs. Rudik and Mrs. Gill feel that the signs are needed, but also that the community, as a whole, supports the project,” said Councilman Krier.
Therefore, Councilman Krier is scheduled to meet with the Coker PTA in September to determine if the PTA supports the need and to discuss the overall wording and placement of the signs where they will most benefit the safety of the children.
“We will also discuss other ways to educate children, parents and the community on this important issue because no matter what safety improvements the City makes, if drivers and children do not always practice good safety habits, we will still have some safety issues,” said Councilman Krier.
3. Through collaboration at Councilman Krier’s May School Zone Safety Meeting, NEISD Superintendent Brian Gottardy and his staff offered the use of their ParentLink System to further the Councilman’s message of School Zone Safety. This Thursday, August 21, NEISD parents will receive a School Zone Safety PSA voice message from Councilman Krier.
“This year, in an effort to improve school zone safety, I have partnered with the North East Independent School District to remind parents to talk to our children about pedestrian Safety,” said Councilman Krier.
The ParentLink voice message is an abbreviated version of the Councilman’s overall School Zone Safety Message which is:
“We often talk to our children about stranger danger or the danger of drugs and alcohol, but when was the last time we spoke to ALL of our school age children and reminded them to do all of the following:
1. Do NOT WALK while distracted. Put cell phones and other electronics away while walking to and from school and only use them in the case of an emergency.
2. Always cross at a GREEN Light and/or CROSSWALK and look to make sure that drivers see you and have stopped before stepping off the curb.
3. Use sidewalks when able and NEVER cut in between parked cars to cross the street. It makes it harder for drivers to see you as you step onto the street.
4. During low visibility, use a flashlight, reflective gear/wear bright clothes so that drivers can better see you.
5. Children should try not to walk alone and always walk with a parent or buddy to and from school.
6. If you see anyone walking or driving dangerously, tell an adult!”
As school begins next week, Councilman Krier wants to ensure School Zone Safety is on everyone’s mind and hopes that his initiatives and this week’s Council Consideration Request will help fulfill the promise he made to Gina Babineaux to work toward trying to prevent any other parent having to endure such a tragic loss of a child.
Residents with any School Zone Safety Concerns can contact NEISD directly or Councilman Krier at 210-207-7325 or firstname.lastname@example.org ATTN: School Zone Safety.
Contact: Tish Williamson
o: 210-207-7812, c: 210-452-8954