Crash Injuring MCPS Students Draws Heightened Attention to Pedestrian, Student Safety
School board recognizes school bus safety week, county planning department encourages Vision Zero participation
MCPS students participate in National Walk to School Day on Wednesday morning.
Montgomery County Department of Transportation
The irony of recognizing school bus safety week on the same day four Montgomery County Public Schools students were hit by a car while waiting at a bus stop was not lost on the district’s school board.
The board on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution that states “each student riding a school bus should have a safe and secure environment that sets a positive tone for the day” and names Oct. 22 to 26 as National School Bus Safety Week.
Typically a routine item for the board, members this week lengthened the discussion in light of the crash that occurred the same morning, injuring four John F. Kennedy High School students as they waited at a bus stop on Georgia Avenue in Aspen Hill.
“Every parent kisses their child goodbye in the morning and expects they’ll return home safely in the evening,” said District 3 board member Pat O’Neill, who also called for heightened motorist awareness Wednesday in conjunction with National Walk to School Day. “I was horrified by the incident involving four Kennedy students, and … there are too many near misses. I hope everyone pays attention to kids going to and from school every day.”
A 15-year-old boy sustained life-threatening injuries while a 15-year-old girl and two 14-year-old girls sustained non life-threatening injuries. All four teenagers and the driver of a vehicle involved in the crash were transported to local hospitals, according to police.
According to police, officers and county fire and rescue crews responded at 6:56 a.m. to the 13600 block of Georgia Avenue for a report of a collision involving a Volkswagen Jetta and a blue Ford 500 sedan driven by Saihou Bunama Bojang, 25, of Featherwood Court in Silver Spring.
The sedan was traveling northbound after exiting a gas station at 13615 Georgia Ave. when it collided with the Jetta, also traveling northbound. The collision sent the Jetta onto the sidewalk, where it struck the students, police said.
Bojang and a 25-year-old passenger were not injured, police said. The Volkswagen driver, 21-year-old Henri Josue Guevara Chicas, of Silver Spring, sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
The crash was “horrifying,” but not surprising to Montgomery County Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson. The county is, however, actively working to improve pedestrian safety in each community, he said, and has prioritized the Aspen Hill area where the children were injured.
“All Montgomery County residents deserve to be safe on our roads, sidewalks and trails and no one should be injured or killed trying to get to work or school,” Anderson said in a statement. “These preventable collisions affect not only those directly involved but have a ripple effect throughout our communities. The Montgomery County Parks and Planning Departments are committed to prioritizing human lives over moving cars quickly through an area.”
The Aspen Hill Vision Zero study kicked off in the area in late September, focusing explicitly on pedestrian safety on and near Georgia Avenue.
The Aspen Hill Vision Zero study is part of a larger, countywide plan to reduce the number of severe and fatal collisions among vehicle occupants, bicyclists and pedestrians.
The Vision Zero initiative focuses on employing traffic engineering, enforcement and education to foster a 35 percent reduction in severe injuries and fatalities by November 2019, according to a county press release.
Anyone upset by Tuesday morning’s crash can get involved in progressing the Vision Zero project, Anderson said.
Residents can text concerns about road safety in Aspen Hill to county Planning Department staff and participate in a walk audit on Nov. 3 when county officials and residents will walk the Aspen Hill community and rate the sidewalks, intersections and roads.
“One preventable death or severe injury is one too many. We have the tools—and the responsibility—to protect our neighbors as they move about our communities,” Anderson said. “Let’s do it together.”