Friday, February 8, 2008
7 News Features: Crossing into Danger
It's no secret that South Florida's roadways are dangerous, especially around our schools where, too often, drivers don't slow down. Just a few miles an hour can make a life and death difference for a child. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero with this special assignment report, Crossing Into Danger.
WSVN -- Daniel Jones: "When I looked again the car was right there, and I was scared."
Twelve-year-old Daniel Jones was hit by a car last March near his school.
Daniel Jones: "I hit my head really hard."
Penny Jones: "He was laying on the curb of the streets, just laying there."
Daniel spent two months in a coma.
Penny Jones: "Yeah, I had to tube feed him, and he couldn't talk for two months."
The driver of the car that hit Daniel was speeding and talking on the phone.
Penny Jones: "She was on a cell phone, she got out of the car and still was on the cell phone."
Distracted and speeding drivers have helped put Miami-Dade in the number one spot for pedestrian deaths in the nation, Broward is number two. The speed limit in school zones is fifteen miles an hour.
Police Officer: "Twenty-four on the gold Ford."
Yet drivers don't slow down.
Driver: "I was speeding? Are you sure?"
Police Officer: "I'm positive."
When Miami-Dade Police clock drivers at school zones, they have no trouble finding people driving more than 15.
Police Officer: "You, 36."
Police say it is not uncommon to find drivers going 45 and even more through our school zones.
So how does speed impact our ability to stop? Miami-Dade Police helped us put it to the test. At 15 miles an hour driving instructor Kristan Patten had no trouble stopping at the break point cone. It was 15 feet in front of a plastic figure of a child. Experts say, on average, that's about how much warning you'd get if a child darts out in front of you.
Carmel Cafiero: "Child is safe, and so are we."
But kick things up to 20 miles an hour, and the stopping distance puts the car close, very close to the child. At just thirty miles and hour, disaster.
Carmel Cafiero: "Wow!"
We definitely would have hit the child. It took 31 feet to stop the car.
And, at 45, burning rubber and 66 feet to stop, about 5 car lengths. A child hit at that speed would be severely injured if not killed. And, keep in mind, this is a professional driver who is anticipating the stop, not someone surprised by a child running into the street.
Sergeant Ronnie Key: "And, as you're thinking about what you do or need to do, you may have already hit what you're thinking about trying to avoid. It's too late. You're going too fast."
Dr. Gillian Hotz: "The higher the speed of the vehicle the more catastrophic the injuries."
Dr. Gillian Hotz sees the injured children at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Dr. Gillian Hotz: "We had about 174 last year of kids five to thirteen years old that were injured."
Speeders are just half the problem. Hotz says, youngsters and their parents just don't follow the rules.
Dr. Gillian Hotz: "About 45 percent of injuries occur mid-street or mid-block crossing."
And we saw that firsthand. You could call it the great escape at the curb. Kids weaving in and out of traffic, crossing in front of cars, not using the crosswalk. One driver almost runs into his own child, and a mom jaywalks with her babies in tow.
When there are accidents, young lives can be altered forever.
Carmel Cafiero: "So, the next time you're in a school zone remember, even a few miles over the limit can cost a child's life. It's the difference between crossing safely or crossing into danger."