The school zone in front of Midway Middle School could be extended to include the intersection at Hewitt Drive and Panther Way after a crossing guard was struck after school recently while pushing a child to safety.
Hewitt police officers staffed the intersection before the Oct. 5 accident, but for the three weeks after the collision, officers worked traffic on foot to better understand the area’s problems and force drivers to pay closer attention, Hewitt Police Chief Jim Devlin said.
“We’ve had this school zone in front of the middle school for many, many years and it’s time to re-evaluate,” Devlin said.
The school zone sits directly in front of the middle school on the five-lane thoroughfare of Hewitt Drive lined with restaurants and businesses.
The school zone slows traffic normally at 50 miles per hour to 30 mph directly in front of the school, but excludes the intersections on either side.
Students walking from the apartment complexes and subdivisions behind the businesses across the street must use the Panther Way crosswalk to reach the school.
The crossing guard was struck by a vehicle turning left from Panther Way onto Hewitt Drive as she pushed a student out of the path of an oncoming SUV. The driver was cited for disregard of a school crossing guard after an investigation.
Midway ISD Public Information Coordinator Traci Marlin said the district would like to see the school zone extended.
The newer schools’ zones are much longer and provide more safety around the buildings, she said.
The district also wants to remove the flashing-yellow light on Panther Way because it seems to confuse drivers, Marlin said.
“People are paying more attention to the arrow than they are to the pedestrians in the crosswalk,” Devlin said.
Hewitt Drive is a state-maintained road, and Texas Department of Transportation officials said they don’t expect extending the zone to be a problem and are conducting a study to decide where to place it. They are unsure when the study will be complete or when the changes will be made.
Devlin said the area is extremely congested, but driver impatience is what makes the area precarious.
“There’s just so much ‘got to go, go, go’ that they’re not paying attention to their surroundings, which is troubling,” Devlin said. “Days after this traffic collision occurred, I was kind of beside myself with the ‘I’ve got to get through there’ and people trying to beat the red light.”
Officers will continue to work the traffic through the intersection during the school zone hours, which seems to have slowed some of the drivers, he said.
“We feel that (the speed limit) needs to be knocked down significantly and needs to be moved to be back further,” Devlin said. “It’s easier to stop if an emergency occurs.”