The Times West Virginian

Opinion

June 5, 2013

All must invest time, effort and funding to keep our children safe

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare — watching your child taken away in an ambulance following an accident, not knowing the full extent of their injuries.

A 9-year-old boy survived when his bicycle collided with a car on Friday, but his family tells the Times West Virginian that he will have a long road toward recovery. The boy sustained a fractured skull, fractured sinuses, a major concussion, bleeding in his brain, and many abrasions and contusions. He will live to ride his bicycle again in his neighborhood, thankfully, but we hope that it’s a safer environment when he returns.

Within the past decade, the family tells us several children have been hit by cars along these narrow, sometimes one-way streets with sharp turns, little signage and cars that drive too fast.

“We’ve asked the city to put speed bumps here,” Ellen Bagwell, who has lived at the corner of Ridgeley and Field for 27 years, told the Times West Virginian on the afternoon of the accident. “We really need to have something. People fly up and down here. I know there is a speed limit. Kids play in the street with their bicycles.

“One of these days some­body’s gonna get killed, and it’s a shame we’d have to get to that point before they do something about these roads,” Bagwell said.

Consider some of the conditions in the neighborhood where the accident occurred: Entering Ridgeley from Locust, there is a speed sign of 25 mph, and a sign that cautions “children are at play.” No more are seen through­out the area. A stop sign is on one side of Field Street but not the other. Traffic on Ridgley has the right of way, but drivers or pedestrians must edge out onto Ridgeley to see beyond overgrown bushes and high cement walls. There was no speed sign on Field Street in the direction in which the car was traveling.

They say that it takes a village to raise a child. It takes one to keep a child safe while at play, too.

We believe the City of Fairmont needs to analyze the signage in that particular neighborhood and make improvements where needed. We believe the city needs to look at any obstructions that prevent bikers or walkers from seeing oncoming traffic, like branches and foliage and improper parking.

We believe there needs to be more police patrols in neighborhoods with young children and a history of accidents. Not only will their presence be a deterrent for speeding, but they can begin to develop a positive relationship with the children of the neighborhood.

We believe that parents and guardians need to be proactive when it comes to safe play for their children by reinforcing the importance of bicycle and helmet laws, establishing boundaries that are age-appropriate for how far and along what roads a child should bike down, and explaining the possible consequences of not following established rules or guidelines.

We believe that neighbors should report traffic issues, like speeding or failing to stop or yield at intersections, and we believe those reports should be taken seriously by the police and the city.

And finally, we believe drivers need to be more responsible when they get behind the wheel of an automobile. Residental areas are typically 25 mile-per-hour zones, but even at that speed, it’s hard to quickly respond when a child runs into the road or a bike is within the path of a car. The seconds shaved by barrelling through a neighborhood aren’t worth a child’s wellbeing. Pedestrians and bikers do not always have the right of way, it’s true, but keeping your eyes on the road and being aware of your surroundings could save a life.

The story that started in that West Side neighborhood on Friday afternoon will have a happy ending. But one mile per hour faster or a second or two later and that might not have been the case. We hope that there’s a lesson we take away from this close call.

It’s going to take an investment of time, effort and funding to make that happen, but we believe the safety of our children is the best investment we’ll ever make.

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