On Friday, parents, students and Chapel Hill residents marched down Estes Drive to bring attention to concerns surrounding traffic safety following a recent car crash that struck two middle school students.
Two victims, ages 13 and 14, were walking across a crosswalk at the intersection of Estes Drive and Caswell Road when they were hit by a vehicle on Dec. 31.
Both victims were seriously injured. The 13-year-old victim was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries, according to a Jan. 5 press release from the Chapel Hill Police Department.
The driver, 69-year-old Norma Martin of Durham, was charged last week with failure to yield to to a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk, the statement read.
Anne Goldstein — the first person to respond to the late December accident and notify authorities — organized the protest to raise awareness to the incident and dangers associated with the crosswalk itself.
“If I’m not doing something, I feel sick,” Goldstein said, explaining her motivation for organizing the protest. “So hopefully, I’ll feel less sick tomorrow.”
Katharine Kollins, who assisted Goldstein in setting up the event, estimated that between 150 and 200 people showed up. Protestors held signs and marched in solidarity down Estes Drive toward East Franklin Street.
“What happened is really bad — I don’t want it to happen to anyone else,” said Clara Lindner, a student at Guy B. Phillips Middle School directly across the crosswalk.
Kollins, a parent of two kids who walk to CHCCS schools, said she has been advocating for improvements for years.
“I have been waiting for the last five years patiently for the Town and the state to implement the [Estes Drive Connectivity Project], and they have not done it,” Kollins said. “I have emailed the Town probably every six months over the last four years talking about the importance of actually getting this project moving in a timely manner. It takes an accident before anybody replies to you.”
The Estes Drive Connectivity Project, if implemented, would add raised bike lanes from Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd to Caswell Rd, a sidewalk on the south side and a 10-foot multi-use path on the north side, according to the Town of Chapel Hill’s website.
It would also add flashing beacons along Estes Drive to help make pedestrians more visible.
“You don’t know that this crosswalk is here almost unless you are a pedestrian,” Kollins said.
Maughan and Lindner said they use the crosswalk regularly.
“We feel pretty safe, at least during the day,” Maughan said. “But if I was walking at night, I wouldn’t feel safe.”
“The crosswalk lady is there about 30 to 40 minutes after school, and then she leaves, so any time later after school, at like five or something, I would not feel safe at all,” she said.
Goldstein said the town should improve safety on Estes Road by adding reflectors along the edges of the crosswalk and sidewalk, repainting the crosswalk immediately and decreasing the speed limit from 35 to 30. She also advocated for the installation of solar-powered rapid flash beacons.
“All of these things can be done at minimal cost,” Goldstein said.
To decrease the likelihood of such accidents, she pleaded for drivers to be careful.
“Drivers need to slow down and watch for pedestrians," Goldstein said. "They need to pay attention because lives are at stake.”
Kollins agreed, imploring drivers to drive the speed limit.
“Your friends who tell you to slow down, they’re telling you to slow down for a reason, and it’s because your reaction time can only be so good and the faster you’re going, the more damage you do.”
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