Thanks to one man's concern, children get safety tips

November 04, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Burke Street School's 130 students got a lesson in pedestrian safety from Martinsburg City Police on Thursday thanks to a concerned citizen.

Principal Dean Warrenfeltz said he asked city police to make the 30-minute presentation to the students after a local resident expressed concern for the children's safety when crossing streets. Almost all of the school's kindergartners through fifth-graders walk to school, he said.

A. Domenic Spinelli said he called Warrenfeltz about a month ago because he was concerned about speeders and the habit some children have of darting into streets.

"My major concern is for the children," said Spinelli, who lives at the intersection of Church and Martin streets, where he sees about 14 children cross twice a day.


"I'm just scared someone's going to get killed," Spinelli said. "It's too late once somebody gets hit or there's an accident."

Spinelli said he expressed his concerns to Martinsburg City Police and later saw police watching for speeders.

Two stop signs were put up on Martin Street at the intersection, but were taken down within 24 hours and replaced with children-at-play signs, he said.

City Manager Mark Baldwin said the stop signs should not have been installed because they weren't warranted. Police determined that, instead, signs advising drivers to slow because children were in the area were more appropriate, Baldwin said.

Spinelli said he wished the Berkeley County Board of Education would consider hiring crossing guards.

The Washington County Board of Education provides paid crossing guards at busy streets, mostly at intersections and crossings near elementary schools and sometimes at middle schools.

Baldwin said he wasn't sure crossing guards are needed. That particular area just happens to have a high volume of pedestrian traffic, he said.

Baldwin said he hopes installing the signs and educating the school children will prevent accidents.

Warrenfeltz, Burke Street's principal, said many parents walk with their younger children to and from school.

While there hasn't been a recent pedestrian accident around the school, Warrenfeltz said it is good to take a proactive stance.

Sgt. John McMillen told the youngsters that rules and laws exist not to be mean, but to keep them safe.

"No matter how you come to school, there are certain rules to follow," McMillen told them.

About 25 students raised their hands to signify they walk to school with a friend while approximately another 25 indicated they ride their bikes to school.

Nationwide, 40,000 children a year are injured in pedestrian accidents, McMillen told the students.

"That's more fingers and toes than we have in this room," he said.

While the community has been fortunate to not experience many pedestrian accidents, they have been on the rise in recent years as the city grows and becomes more congested, McMillen said before his presentation.

McMillen couldn't recall any pedestrian fatalities in recent years, saying most accidents were minor, such as kids riding their bikes into the sides of moving cars.

McMillen's safety tips included:

- Stay five giant steps back from school buses when they pull up to the curb.
- Stop, look both ways and listen for cars at intersections before crossing.
- Cross at crosswalks or intersections and not in the middle of the block.
- Wear bright clothing to make it easier for drivers to see you.
- Let parents know what route is taken to and from school and stick to that route.
- Cross the street in a straight line and not diagonally.
- Don't dart or dash into the street.
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