Joel Grover/ Ernesto Torres
Busy school crosswalks like the one in Hollywood where a mother was killed and her daughter injured when a big-rig driver struck them pose a special risk to pedestrians. NBC4's I-Team investigates why many Southland schools aren't receiving the crossing guards they've requested. Joel Grover reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014.
Could a rash of recent crosswalk-related accidents have been prevented by the presence of a crossing guard?
No one disputes that crossing guards make busy intersections near schools safer. Schools with dangerous crosswalks are asking for crossing guards, but nearly a third of those requests are going unfilled, NBC4's I-Team found.
The team obtained internal city records that show more than 500 LA schools have requested and been approved by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to receive crossing guards.
Of the 507 schools that were approved for crossing guards, 169 schools have not received them.
The LADOT told NBC4 that a lack of money and a city hiring freeze are two reasons why requests have not been fulfilled. The department declined to do an on-camera interview.
Two fatalities and five injuries have recently occurred in crosswalks near LA schools where no crossing guard was present, causing concern among parents and school officials.
“I can’t believe this school doesn’t have" a crossing guard, said Eda Lopez, a Citizens of the World Charter School parent.
Marleni Edith Barrera, 42, was fatally struck by a truck while crossing the street with her 9-year-old daughter on the way to school on Feb. 11 in Hollywood, police said. Her daughter was also injured.
A crossing guard had been approved for that intersection, which is near both Citizens of the World Charter School and Joseph Le Conte Middle School, but one was never hired.
The request letter dated Jan. 30, 2013, was sent to LADOT stating that “Crossing guards are necessary to safely walk children to and from school.”
In another crosswalk incident, on Jan. 24, an 87-year-old driver ran a stop sign and struck three children and two adults near a Highland Park elementary school. The children’s grandmother, 52-year-old Guadalupe Chavez, died from her injuries two days later. The driver, Seymour Saunders, appeared to be devastated, telling witnesses his foot got “stuck on the gas pedal.”
Nearly $6 million was budgeted for LADOT's crossing guard program in 2013. This amounts to $17,000 per guard per year. The department told NBC4 that they will request additional funding next year to pay for more crossing guards.