NEW PALESTINE, Ind. (WISH) — Residents had voiced safety concerns about a crosswalk in front of New Palestine High School for years before a 14-year-old was struck Monday by a pickup truck while biking to school.
There are no flashing lights, crossing guards or pedestrian signals at the crosswalk.
The accident occurred around 7:15 a.m. on U.S. 52, near School Street, as the boy was crossing the highway on his bicycle.
The New Palestine student sustained head trauma and internal injuries, and was taken to Riley Hospital for Children in critical condition, according to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department.
He remained hospitalized Monday night in serious condition and is expected to survive, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s department said.
Authorities identified the driver of the truck as John Bundy, 52, of New Palestine.
Bundy remained at the scene of the accident, cooperated with investigators and submitted to a blood draw. He did not appear to be speeding and had his vehicle’s headlights turned on, witnesses told police.
Speed, drugs and alcohol “did not appear to be factors in the crash,” the sheriff’s department stated Monday in a press release.
Drivers and pedestrians familiar with the area blamed the accident on the “poorly designed crosswalk.”
“We’ve been asking [officials] to make it safer for years and nothing has changed,” a school parent said. “There aren’t even lights [at the crosswalk on U.S. 52].”
Matthew Crawford, 17, said crossing the road in front of the school was “kind of scary.”
Crawford works at Mozzi’s Pizza on the north side of the crosswalk. He attends New Palestine High School on the south side of the crosswalk.
“People tend to just speed right on by,” he told News 8. “You really just kind of have to make a break for it.”
Finding an opportunity to dash across the busy highway can take up to half an hour, Crawford added.
“Sometimes you’re stuck there, waiting for 20 [to] 25 minutes after school just to get across the crosswalk,” he said. “It is on the drivers to yield for pedestrians; but don’t count on that.”
A spokesperson for the Southern Hancock County Community School Corporation cited previous conversations with officials about increasing student safety on U.S. 52.
“The school district has had, and is continuing to have, conversations with the Indiana Department of Transportation and local law enforcement agencies to find the best solution on U.S. 52 that works to keep our students, parents and community safe,” Wes Anderson, the director of school and community relations, said Monday in an emailed statement to News 8. “We hope these conversations can lead to action by INDOT which will reduce speed and increase driver awareness on U.S. 52 near New Palestine High School’s main entrance. Our goal is to work with INDOT and our local law enforcement agencies to solve this problem in the best interest of student safety.”
Transportation officials have a “thorough review process when dealing with any injury crash on a state highway system,” an INDOT representative said.
The department did not disclose any immediate plans to add lights or signals to the crosswalk but said an “improvement plan” is scheduled for construction in 2020 at an intersection “just down the street from the high school.”