When Pam Houge watched a vehicle nearly hit an Indian Land High School student at the intersection of U.S. 521 and River Road, she decided she’d seen enough. Now, she has more than 300 concerned parents and residents behind her.
Driving her son to and from school, Houge had noticed kids walking back and forth along the narrow, grassy shoulder of River Road – their footsteps only a few feet away from oncoming traffic.
“This is a big safety concern for our students that walk to school, walk to Bojangles and to QT in the mornings and afternoons,” Houge said.
“There should be sidewalks down River Road on both sides of the street to ensure the safety of our students. As well as sidewalks, there should be a cross walk at the entrance of Indian Land Middle School.”
Houge contacted Lancaster County school district Safety and Transportation Director Bryan Vaughn and asked what could be done. He told her if she could get 12 parents on board, he would start researching.
“But I’m the kind of person that 12 signatures aren’t enough,” Houge said. “I wanted to show them that we care about our students here in Indian Land.”
I don’t want a student to get hit or killed before SCDOT decides to do something at this intersection.
Indian Land parent Pam Houge
So she drafted a petition and circulated it through social media and friends. She wrote about the dangerous combination of the students’ foot traffic and the highly congested intersection.
“I have noticed cars driving down the side of the street in the grass to try and get around other cars,” she wrote. “There is a program called Safe Routes to School that gives out grants for these types of projects. With your help we can send a message to (South Carolina Department of Transportation) that we care about our children's safety here in Indian Land.”
On Saturday, Houge delivered the document, bearing signatures of over 300 supporters, to Vaughn. One of those signatures belongs to Lancaster County Council District 1 representative Terry Graham. He said the area around both of the schools is heavily congested and it’s only a question of time before there will be an accident.
“There are no sidewalks for the students to walk on so they either walk on the grass verge or on the side of the road,” Graham said. “Sidewalks would be a much safer alternative as well as crosswalks.”
Lancaster County school board member Melvin Stroble also signed the petition. He said as a concerned resident alone, he sees the addition of sidewalks as a safety measure for pedestrians, particularly students.
“We anticipate with the addition of a proposed residential community behind Indian Land High School and new shopping centers south of the subject intersection, safety risks for pedestrians will only increase with what is already a highly congested intersection,” Stroble said.
“It is my hope that SCDOT will work with the Lancaster County school district and the Indian Land and Van Wyck communities to implement traffic safety measures that will protect pedestrians along River Road and at the Route 521 intersection.”
On Sunday, Vaughn posted a statement on the school district’s Facebook page acknowledging his receipt of the petition requesting sidewalks and crosswalks along River Road and the vicinity.
“I will work on behalf of these parents to see what funding and grant opportunities are available to achieve this proposed project,” Vaughn posted. “We will also request SCDOT to provide information about the approval process and feasibility of the proposal. I will keep you informed as we navigate this endeavor.”
Houge is patiently waiting for the next step in the process to unfold. Meanwhile, she encourages students to stay aware of their surroundings while trekking back and forth along the footpath and she asks drivers to do the same.
“Drivers and parents, pay attention – make sure you’re not on your cell phone and not trying to pass another car in the grass – because these students are important to us,” she said. “I don’t want a student to get hit or killed before SCDOT decides to do something at this intersection or down River Road.”
Stephanie Jadrnicek: firstname.lastname@example.org