Residents want raised crosswalk at Sangaree schools

Crossing guard Sandra Squire ( left ) and Cpl. S. Platt with Berkeley County Sheriff's Office direct traffic at the intersection of Royle Road and Sangaree Parkway. Leroy Burnell/Staff 4/11/2014

Getting youngsters to and from school in the Sangaree neighborhood is a daily danger, according to area residents.

"Sometimes I feel like I'm taking our lives into our hands," said Jennifer Taylor, who walks her children to Sangaree Elementary and Sangaree Intermediate schools. "It's a very dangerous intersection for walkers as well as drivers. It seems like everyone's in a hurry."

Traffic backs up at the intersection of Sangaree Parkway and Royle Road every school day morning and afternoon as parents try to get their children to those schools and nearby Sangaree Middle.

Two years ago, a crossing guard was hit by a truck at the intersection, and last year, another guard had a close call.

"I have seen plenty of close calls out here," said Sandra Squire, who has worked as a crossing guard at the intersection for more than a year. She said she is particularly concerned because about half of the kids who walk to school are not accompanied by an adult.

An off-duty sheriff's deputy helps Squire each day, and a second guard is stationed on Royle Road where the buses exit to help control the traffic.

Deborah Bagley, another area resident, said drivers disregard the crossing guard and "generally make it impossible for a safe passage. It has become a true nightmare."

Last month she asked the Berkeley County School Board to support an effort to get a raised crosswalk over the intersection.

The board voted last week to ask the state Department of Transportation, Berkeley County government and the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments to help make safety improvements in the area.

Last year, the district kicked off a grassroots campaign called "Drive Like Your Child Lives Here" aimed at encouraging people to drive carefully in the area of the schools.

"That seems to be a major area of congestion due to there being three schools on that little two-lane road," Berkeley County sheriff's Capt. Melissa L. Blanchard of the Community Services Division said at the time. "There have been several problems there over the years."

The district cannot ticket drivers but will report license plate numbers of offenders to local police departments, Superintendent Rodney Thompson said.

The district has requested traffic-light studies from the DOT three times since 2005, but the DOT has not found enough evidence to justify a light. Instead, the district has increased parking areas on school grounds to try to improve the situation, Thompson said.

"A roundabout won't work," said Tommy Newell, who lives in the area and is also a candidate for Berkeley County Council. "A light won't work. The area needs an elevated crosswalk. It should not take a child being killed or being hurt to get this problem solved."

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.