25 Washoe County students have been struck by vehicles since August. KUNR’s Stephanie Serrano sat down with MJ Cloud to understand what’s going on. Cloud was a police officer for 25 years and now she’s the district’s Safe Routes to School coordinator.
Serrano: What are you seeing around school campuses?
Cloud: We have catastrophic numbers this year. In the past, the most accidents that involved students were maybe seven, and now we're hitting above 20. Anything over zero is unacceptable, but to have 25 students hit by a vehicle — whether they were on their way to their bus stop, waiting for their bus, or walking to school or biking to and from school — is too many. We're not finding any sort of pattern. In some cases, it's a parent who dropped off their student or picking up their student, and in other cases, it's a commuter that's driving through the area.
Serrano: Are people suffering from long-lasting injuries?
Cloud: Yes. We've had several where there have been operations after operations — just in order to be able to [sit] in a wheelchair — and then we did have a death. As a reminder, even if it's bumps or scrapes, it's affecting both that driver and that person who got hit. We're talking about juveniles; their little bones, for them to be struck — this is a long-term effect.
Serrano: Have any of your close friends or family been affected by this?
Cloud: My son was hit. My son was crossing the crosswalk from Diedrichsen to Mendive in a protected crosswalk. He said he saw the driver of a big truck look both ways, but then continue straight right at him. He tried getting out of the way, but the truck hit him, so he was knocked down... The driver gave a thumbs-up, so my son in middle school gave him a thumbs-up as well... and [he] went to school and the driver drove on. Although we are seeing these numbers... I believe these numbers aren't anywhere close to how many students actually are hit. I truly believe students don't tell because they think they're going to be in trouble.
Serrano: Where do you think this is coming from?
Cloud: As far as the catastrophic numbers go... I can't tell you why or how, I can just tell you that it's going to take everyone in the community to make change. So in order to stop these numbers, in order to stop the crashes and the students being injured... every single person who gets behind the wheel is going to have to make that commitment not to be distracted.
Serrano: What is the district doing to help find these solutions?
Cloud: The school district has not only pledged its support through finances, but it also houses the Safe Routes to School program [and] will soon house a second employee. So we'll have two in that program, not just myself. They've made a commitment to safety through education [and] they put on safety assemblies.
Serrano: What do you believe needs to happen in order to get these incidents under control?
Cloud: What can happen is if you are a champion for safety, become part of the solution... If you are walking with your child and you see other kids in the area, then wait at the corner so those kids can gather, because the rest of your commute will at least be in a group. Walking in groups is safer. Reach out to your councilmen; reach out to your congressmen; we need laws changed. Safe Routes to School is going to [need to] cover high school's because right now... it only covers [kindergarden through eighth grade].