Students darting in between traffic across a congested N.C. 51 has been a regular scene at the block between Johnston and Carmel roads.
But after years of advocacy to city leaders for the safety of some area teens, leaders and parents at Charlotte Catholic High School were happy to see a crosswalk finally installed in front of the school, just in time for the new school year.
The stretch of road actually falls under jurisdiction of the state transportation department, according to Charlotte Department of Transportation officials, and sees approximately 41,000 cars travel the stretch per day. Add in hungry teenagers trying to get an early dinner before athletic practice from nearby Jack in the Box and McDonald’s across the street, and Principal Jerry Healy said the congested highway looked more like a nightmare scenario.
“We’ve been lucky,” Healy said. “People have been very cautious when they see the school, but students don’t stop and think. They just want to get something to eat.”
The new crosswalk, which was activated after Labor Day, only stops traffic when walking commuters press the button and gives adequate time to safely cross the street before traffic can resume.
Healy said the crosswalk installation came as a bit of a surprise, as no city or state officials told the school they were taking action, but the school has welcomed it with open arms, he said. Parents, staff, police and students alike all are taking solace in knowing area leaders have student safety in mind, Healy said. He’s been encouraging students to use the new crosswalk.
“Before, we didn’t have an opportunity to cross. Now we do, so take the opportunity to use it. Don’t be lazy and try and cross the street (I tell them),” Healy said.
On an average day at Charlotte Catholic High, Healy said anywhere from 200 to 300 students stay after school for extracurricular activities – the football team alone has more than 100 students, he said. Practice times vary, but most don’t start until 3:15 or 3:30 p.m. and school lets out at 2:35 p.m.
“We’ve been advocating for it for a long time. The police department has been advocating for it, also,” Healy said. “Everyone is grateful the city worked proactively rather than reactively. Whether it’s us, adults or kids on the weekends, you just don’t want any accidents to happen.”