The bus shelter where 11 Roosevelt High School students were injured Wednesday was reinforced with steel supports this summer and might have prevented the loss of life, city spokeswoman Sontaya Rose told GV Wire on Thursday.
“You can see from the damage to the front end of the truck — the durability and reinforcement of the shelter likely made a difference in the outcome,” Rose said. “Many of our bus stop shelters are screwed into the ground and have fiberglass and metal frames. But this model was our newest one and was set in the ground in a more concrete manner.”
The 11 were hurt when a 16-year-old driver, reportedly a Roosevelt student, smashed a pickup truck into the bus stop at the southwest corner of Tulare Street and Cedar Avenue. The driver fled but was later apprehended and arrested on suspicion of felony hit and run, driving while under the influence, and driving without a license, police said.
The driver and his 14-year-old sister, a passenger, fled on foot, police said. They were picked up by their mother, 36-year-old Yesenia Renteria, who was arrested and charged with felony aiding and abetting.
Condition reports on the injured were not available Thursday, but Deputy Police Chief Mark Salazar said Wednesday that none of the students’ injuries were life-threatening.
The bus stop near Roosevelt High was one of 58 that have been upgraded on the heavily traveled Cedar Avenue and Shaw Avenue corridors, said assistant city manager Gregory Barfield, who oversees FAX, the city’s bus system.
The $3.3 million project to reinforce the bus shelters, using Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades, started about two years ago and just wrapped up a few weeks ago, he said.
The next phase will add signage with bus arrival times, Barfield said.
4 Crashes with Fresno Unified School Kids
The crash near Roosevelt High was not the only one this week in which Fresno Unified students were injured. A Birney Elementary student and her mother were injured Thursday morning and required hospitalization after they and several other children were struck by a car.
Before Wednesday there had been two incidents involving students and cars, Fresno Unified district spokeswoman AJ Kato told GV Wire. A Cooper Middle School student was hit last week walking home from school, and the week before that a Fresno High student was hit while riding his scooter near Fort Miller Middle School, she said.
Student safety and making sure there are safe routes for them to go to school and return home continues to be of paramount importance for Fresno Unified and the city, FUSD Trustee Susan Wittrup said.
The trustees are notified by text message whenever such incidents occur, and Wittrup said they come too frequently.
School district, city, and county officials need to redouble their efforts to make sure that kids who walk to school and home again can do so safely, she said.
Wittrup said that in too many neighborhoods there are no sidewalks, so kids have to walk in the street.
Making Streets Safer
She said she is grateful that City Councilman Mike Karbassi has continued to push for a turn signal at the corner of Sierra and West avenues near Starr Elementary School. The intersection is dangerous and has seen more than its share of crashes as well as impatient drivers who will swerve around left-turning motorists without waiting to see if anyone is crossing the street in front of the stopped car.
“There have been so many near misses,” she said. “People don’t want to wait for that driver to make the left turn, and they just go right around and at speeds that make my heart stop, with children around and strollers around and people walking all around there.”
Law enforcement officials said there aren’t enough patrol cars and officers or deputies for every school in the city, so enforcement tends to be targeted in areas where there are more reports of speeding or reckless driving.
Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama said that the Wednesday and Thursday crashes, which he termed “significant collisions,” shared no similarities that would have helped police protect them. One involved a teenage driver after school, the other an elderly driver before school, he said.
“There is no common driver age, gender, or race that can be identified to help us prevent a collision from occurring,” he said. “There are also no specific times, days, or locations within our city to target that will absolutely prevent collisions from occurring.”
Watch: How Fresno Police Tracked Down the Hit-and-Run Driver
Fresno PD Focuses on High-Risk Areas: Police Chief
The department does focus its resources in areas that have a higher risk of collisions, however, Balderrama said.
“Safety on our roadways, be it by vehicle, bicycle, or on foot, is paramount,” he said. “We should all be able to travel our streets, free from the fear of being involved in a collision. This cannot be accomplished by law enforcement along, however … it takes the involvement and commitment by our entire community to drive responsibly.”
CHP Watching School Zones This Month
The California Highway Patrol, which patrols city streets as well as the state’s freeways and highways, is paying particular attention this month to school zones, officer Mike Salas said.
“This being Pedestrian Safety Month, the month of September, we are allocating extra officers in and around school areas looking for those vehicles that are traveling faster than the posted speed limit of 25 mph,” he said.
The greatest safety improvement of all would be if drivers put down their cell phones, let up on the gas pedal, and paid more attention to their surroundings, especially when they’re around pedestrians or bicyclists, he said.
“When you see the school buses out there use a little extra caution as you’re traversing through those areas where the school buses either pick up or drop off, because obviously that’s when our children are most vulnerable, when they’re getting on and off that bus,” Salas said.