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School district officials and police look to end unsafe traffic practices
Rachel McClure (left) pictured here with her sister Rebecca McClure was hit by a car while walking home from school on Oct. 6, 2007. - photo by Photo Contributed
On Oct. 6, 2007, Rachel McClure, then 7, was walking home from school when she was hit by a car. Rachel was air-lifted to UC Davis Children’s Hospital immediately following the accident. She had multiple skull and facial fractures, bleeding and swelling in the brain, internal bleeding, a broken hip, a fractured pelvis, and a compound fracture to her left leg, according to family friend Rhea Spanglo. A month later, Rachel returned home to family and friends who were grateful that she was alive.
The driver, Imelda Maldonado, 30, of Turlock was issued two citations for running a red light and for being an unlicensed driver, according to the Turlock Police Department.
Unfortunately, Turlock drivers have not yet learned that safe driving is imperative, especially during the hours just before and after school is in session. In fact, Turlock Unified School District Superintendent Sonny Da Marto has been fielding numerous parent complaints about pedestrian safety around local schools.
“It seems like there are more incidents this year than last year,” Da Marto said.
He has been working with the Turlock Police Department to find some solutions to Turlock’s school traffic problems. Turlock Police Captain Mike Langston said some of the “unsafe habits practiced around schools” includes drivers stopping in the middle of the school traffic lanes and unauthorized parking in red zones.
When parents stop in the middle of traffic lanes, the child has to walk in the street with over moving vehicles, Langston said. Looking at traffic incidents, the Turlock Police Department focuses on three main strategies, Langston said. They focus on education, enforcement and engineering. Right now, the police department and the TUSD is focusing on education.
Enforcement is already in place with officers patrolling school zone areas each day before and after school.
Police officers and the school district will also be looking at the specific layout of each school to figure out the best solution for each site, Langston said. Some schools have more up-to-date crosswalks while some don’t even have sidewalks.
After the first of the year, electronic message trailers specific for each school site will be up and running to remind students of traffic safety, he said.
Da Marto and Police Chief Gary Hampton have also been working on an automatic telephone message to send to all families within the school district to remind them of different safety precautions.
Starting in January, the TUSD and the Turlock Police Department plan to meet with school officials at each site to focus on the main traffic concern. The police department’s Volunteers in Police Services will also be visiting the school sites to promote traffic safety.  
The district also plans to look into implementing designated drop-off and pick-up spots at each school, Da Marto said. This will be like a valet-type service, with children under the supervision of an adult who will greet each car that approaches the drop-off and pick-up spot to ensure the safety of every student arriving and leaving school.
“A couple of minutes rushing to work isn’t worth a child getting hurt. When it says school zone, slow down,” Da Marto said.
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.