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Pedestrian Safety Raised After Students Struck by Cars

Two Cobb County students have been hit by cars recently while they were in crosswalks.

In recent weeks, two Cobb County high school students were struck by cars within a crosswalk.

Late Tuesday night, WSB-TV reported a Douglas County high school student was fatally hit by a car as she got off a school bus.

Lynn Louise Wonders’ son, Jonathan Kenney, was one of the teen pedestrians injured by a car in Cobb County in recent weeks.

“We’d like the community to have a heightened awareness,” Wonders told Patch. “We want the pedestrians and drivers to be more aware and cautious.”

Kenney, a senior at Sprayberry High School, was struck Nov. 15 adjacent to Sprayberry at the dangerous, busy and currently under construction intersection of Sandy Plains Road and East Piedmont Road.

STUDENT HIT AT DUSK

According to the Cobb County Police Department’s accident report, Kenney was hit at 5:47 p.m. by Sprayberry teacher Lynn Gouacide. She was interviewed by a police officer at the school three days after the accident following Gouacide identifying herself as the driver to Sprayberry’s campus officer.

Traveling eastbound in the outside lane on Piedmont, Gouacide told police in the accident report that she observed Kenney "running" across Piedmont Road’s crosswalk as she traveled eastbound in the outside lane on Piedmont. Kenney told Patch he was walking in the crosswalk in the beginning and then started running half way through it.

“Gouacide said she braked, but not in time and struck the young man (Jonathan Kenney),” the accident report stated. “Gouacide said she exited (her car, a 2008 Subaru Impreza) and asked Kenney if he was OK and Kenney started to get up saying he was OK. Gouacide said she told him they needed to call ‘911’ and Kenney kept saying he was OK.

“Gouacide said another unidentified young male approached Kenney and helped him into the Chick-fil-A parking lot,” the report continued. “Officer (C.A.) Ayers asked Gouacide why did she not call 911 to report the accident and she replied, ‘He walked away. I didn’t know what to do.’ Gouacide said she did not give Kenney her name and left the scene.”

DRIVER CITED FOR HIT-AND-RUN

On Nov. 19, Officer Ayers cited Gouacide for hit-and-run. Cobb County School District Communications Director Jay Dillon told Patch Gouacide received a letter of direction or reprimand from the school system in reference to the accident.  

Kenney, who received scrapes and bruises from the accident, told Ayers that he could not tell him the color of the traffic light as he went across Piedmont Road, but Kenney said there were no pedestrian lights to use from crossing the street due to the road’s construction. He was the first of his friends to try to cross the road as the group was returning from eating dinner at the nearby Arby’s restaurant before returning to Sprayberry for a drama/improv performance that night.

Witness Laila Akar, a friend of Kenney’s told Ayers that “without the lights (pedestrian) traffic will not let you cross.”

“There’s more guesswork involved than when there’s a sign that says you’re safe to walk and not get hit by a car,” Kenney told Patch. “I checked the gauges of the lights and didn’t want to wait for the cycle and thought I was OK, but it wasn’t. There was another car that whizzed behind me (as he was in the crosswalk) and I was hit on the right thigh.

"I saw the right headlight, the right tire," he added. "I barely saw (the car) coming toward me and it was right where I was and then I rolled over it and (landed) between the grass side by the Chick-fil-A.”

TEMPORARY PEDESTRIAN LIGHTS INSTALLED

On Friday, Cobb County Department of Transportation installed temporary pedestrian signs and lights at the intersection that will remain through the duration of the construction project, Cobb County District 3 Commissioner JoAnn Birrell said.   

“We are taking additional measures to ensure the safety of our citizens,” Birrell stated in an email to Patch. “…There was a delay in getting this project underway initially due to utility right of ways and easements and the current completion date is scheduled for March 2012.” 

Cobb County Board of Education member David Banks of East and Northeast Cobb’s Post 5 said the construction project needs to be completed as quickly as possible.

“I think the county ought to expedite completion of the intersection project in order to minimize student risk,” he said.

The first couple of days following the accident, Kenney said he took rides to avoid walking the crosswalk again but has since gone back to using the crosswalk.

“I’m still crossing the road,” he said. “I’m just little more paranoid when I’m going through it.”

Jesse Ray, a freshman at Sprayberry, said the accident “gave a reality check” to students at the school.

Kenney, 17, who recently auditioned and earned the lead in Sprayberry’s spring musical “Anything Goes,” offered advice for motorists in the area.

“Be aware, we’re still kids, be wary, you’re going to have to slog through the traffic,” he said. “Just be careful, especially after 5:30 p.m.”

Wonders said she’s working with Sprayberry’s PTSA president for a pedestrian safety campaign for students and encouraging students, teachers and parents to be “extra cautious” in and around Sprayberry.

“We will put this behind us,” she said. “But, in the meantime, we want something good to come out of this: increased pedestrian safety around the schools and in particular Sprayberry High School because of the location and the dangerous intersection it’s near. It’s just a high-risk area for pedestrians.”

KENNESAW MOUNTAIN STUDENT STRUCK

On Nov. 17, a 16-year-old Kennesaw Mountain High School student was hit while she was walking in a crosswalk, the Marietta Daily Journal reported. The driver was charged with failure to yield to a pedestrian by a Kennesaw Police Department officer according to the newspaper.

“Both of these situations point out the need for drivers and pedestrians to know the rules of the road,” Dillon said of the Cobb County accidents. “Student safely is always going to be our highest priority. If there’s a way to improve safety for pedestrians, then we would be glad to look at it.”

Lynn Louise Wonders, LPC, RPT-S December 08, 2011 at 09:51 PM
Thank you Mr. Fowler for an excellent report. I hope this will raise awareness for drivers and pedestrians near the high school.
Julia Harris December 08, 2011 at 11:14 PM
Lynn, I'm so happy that Jonathan wasn't injured more seriously. What a terrible experience! I hope improvements are made quickly to ensure student safety. We'll follow-up.

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