GHS student suffers minor injuries in hit-and-run in Guilderland Center

The Enterprise — Elizabeth Floyd Mair 
With backpack and computer case, student Alexa Abarno watches as another bus turns right onto Route 146 from School Road, heading into the crosswalk as the pedestrian signal across the street counts down the seconds. The signal says that there are six seconds left for Abarno to cross the street.

GUILDERLAND — A Guilderland High School student walking to school was the victim of a hit-and-run accident early Tuesday morning, at the corner of Route 146 and School Road in Guilderland Center, according to Guilderland’s deputy chief of police, Curtis Cox.

On Wednesday, Cox said that the investigation is ongoing, and that he does not have an accident report yet, but outlined what he did know:

The call came in at 6:58 a.m. from someone in the district’s nearby bus garage. “I don’t know if a school-bus driver saw it and radioed the garage,” he said.

The vehicle had pulled out from the direction of Park Guilderland Apartments, across Route 146 from School Road, which leads to the high school. The intersection is less than half a mile from the school, which starts at 7:30 a.m.

Cox surmised the student was a male, because a narrative about the accident included the phrase, “Says he’s hurt.” Cox said it was his understanding that injuries were minor. He said he saw no record of the student having been taken to the hospital in an ambulance, although he said it is possible that the student could have gone for treatment on his own.

Officers have located the driver, Cox said, adding, “Somebody got a plate number.”

Rachel Carl, who lives on Route 146 in Guilderland Center, said she has a son in ninth grade who walks to and from the high school each day as well as two younger children, currently in the fifth and seventh grades. She said that the boy who was hit on Tuesday lives in Guilderland Center and must cross Route 146 to get to school.

Carl would like to see a crossing guard at that corner. Her son needs to cross the street, she said, and gives himself 15 minutes to be able to cross Route 146 toward the school safely. She said that the light is slow to cycle and that pedestrians have to wait a long time before getting the signal to cross. She also said drivers on School Road continue to turn onto Route 146 even while the pedestrian signal is activated, making it impossible to cross.  

Carl wishes, too, that students who live in Guilderland Center could have the option of riding a bus when weather is bad. Guilderland school policy says that high-school students should not have to walk more than a mile to a pick-up spot; students who live closer than one mile to the school are not provided transportation.

New York State Education Department regulations state that a board of education can adopt a resolution providing for transportation of pupils who live closer than the minimum distance, if their “most direct walking route to school will traverse a hazardous route.”

There was an accident at the same intersection in 1999, in which then-sophomore Matthew Hannon was hit by a car. Years later, the speed limit on Route 146 through Guilderland Center was dropped from 40 to 35. Crosswalks were also put in, and a button for pedestrians to push to cross.

Hannon, too, was trying to cross Route 146 to go to the high school; in his case, he was returning from Reddy’s Deli, where he had gone, after classes ended, to get a sandwich before the start of his after-school lab.

Hannon suffered multiple traumas, including head injuries, and spent 10 days in a coma but eventually recovered and returned to school, even becoming class president in his senior year. He spoke at his graduation, walking across the stage just days after mastering walking on his own again.

Then-Police Chief James Murley said at the time of Hannon’s accident that he would like to see traffic lights installed at either end of the Guilderland Center hamlet on Route 146 that would activate during the morning and afternoon hours when school buses are coming and going, as well as during any large events at the school.

On Wednesday afternoon, student Alexa Abarno stood at the intersection of School Road and Route 146, at 2:45, soon after the end of classes. She pushed the button and waited for the pedestrian signal. Once it came on, one school bus after another thundered around the corner in front of her, turning right from School Road onto Route 146, heading toward Route 20. The school buses had a solid green light at the time.

About five of the buses turned right, into the crosswalk as Abarno waited on the sidewalk, watching the timer count down the seconds during which it was safe for pedestrians to cross. When it had gone from 20 to 0, Abarno pushed the button again and began to wait for the next cycle.

“Happens to me all the time,” she said.

“Vehicles making a turn should always slow down and check for pedestrians or bicyclists, period,” said Bryan Viggiani, spokesman for the New York State Department of Transportation. This is true even when a driver has a solid green traffic light, he said. It’s all the more true, he added, when turning into a crosswalk, and truer still when a pedestrian signal is activated.

Turning vehicles must yield to pedestrians crossing in a crosswalk, he said.

Pedestrians should still cross safely, he said, using the crosswalk and the pedestrian push-buttons, waiting for the signal to cross, and checking for oncoming and turning vehicles.


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