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Apex will add warning lights to the crosswalk where a high school student was hit

The Town of Apex will soon install new crosswalk signs with button-activated flashing lights at this crossing in front of Apex High School on Laura Duncan Road. A student was hit in the crosswalk and injured while crossing the street on Aug. 27.
The Town of Apex will soon install new crosswalk signs with button-activated flashing lights at this crossing in front of Apex High School on Laura Duncan Road. A student was hit in the crosswalk and injured while crossing the street on Aug. 27. rstradling@newsobserver.com

The town will soon install new signs with flashing lights at a crosswalk where an Apex High School student was hit on her way to school last month.

The 15-year-old student was in the crosswalk on Laura Duncan Road, at the corner of Knollwood Drive, when she was hit by a pickup truck driven by another student. The 17-year-old driver was attempting to merge into a turn lane to enter the school when she hit the girl in the crosswalk at about 15 mph, according to the Apex police accident report.

Police cited the driver for failing to yield to the pedestrian, who was taken to the hospital with injuries that were considered not life threatening. The accident took place just before 7 a.m. on Aug. 27, the second day of the new school year.

In response to the collision, the town will install signs that flash when a pedestrian wishing to cross pushes a button. The signs should be in place and operating sometime in October, according to Russell Dalton, the town’s senior transportation engineer.

There has been a crosswalk at Laura Duncan and Knollwood for 12 years, and in that time there haven’t been any crashes involving pedestrians or any complaints directed to the town, Dalton said. When the road was recently widened from three to four lanes, in conjunction with the rebuilding of Apex High School, the town figured static warning signs and pavement markings would be adequate, he said.

“Based on the road geometry, there is ample time for a driver to observe and yield to pedestrians with signs and markings already in place,” he wrote in an email. “That being said, adding push button flashing signs is anticipated to help increase driver awareness at the time pedestrians are crossing.”

The solar-powered, on-demand crossing lights will be the first of their kind in Apex, Dalton said, though there is a push-button flashing beacon at a crosswalk on Apex Barbecue Road at Scotts Ridge Elementary School.

Mary Persson was pleased to hear about the flashing crosswalk signs. Persson lives in the neighborhood, and her family, including her two children who attend Apex High, use the crosswalk to cross Laura Duncan.

“I think it will help tremendously,” she said in an interview. “I don’t know if it will solve it.”

The collision in the crosswalk prompted Persson to write a petition on change.org urging the town, the Wake County school system and the N.C. Department of Transportation to take steps to improve pedestrian safety around the school. (Town officials say they decided to install the new crosswalk signs because of the accident, not in response to a petition.)

Persson said she was heartened by an email Apex High principal Elaine Hofmann sent to parents this week that said the school was working with the town and police to “establish routines and procedures that will work to ease some of the congestion and increase safety for students and drivers.”

Hofmann urged parents to arrange carpools or have their kids ride the bus to “try and reduce the sheer volume of cars” that converge on the school each morning and afternoon. Persson said she’s glad the school and the town apparently recognize that the challenges of keeping people safe go beyond a single crosswalk.

“Whenever there’s vehicles and pedestrians in the same place, all at the same time, all in a rush, there’s bound to be a problem,” she said. “So what can we do about that?”

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Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 20 at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.
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