The tragic death last month of Carter Vo was front and center at Monday’s village board meeting as officials and parents contemplate what can be done to improve traffic safety around Skokie’s schools and parks.
Nine-year-old Carter was killed last month when he was riding his bicycle near the intersection of Main Street and St. Louis Avenue following a three-car collision. The Cook County State’s Attorney has charged Hanin Goma, 23, of Skokie, with felony aggravated driving while under the influence and several traffic violations. Her bond was set at $250,000 and her next court date is June 12, according to a State’s Attorney’s spokeswoman.
In the wake of the accident, Mayor George Van Dusen assembled a committee that will have Trustee Randy Roberts as its chairman and will have representatives of the schools, police and village staff to look at traffic data and make recommendations. This committee has solicited a report from a traffic-engineering firm to see how safety can be improved around all schools.
“It is the worst possible thing any human being can ever imagine,” Van Dusen said. “We will find a solution to this. I think we need to dedicate this to Carter and his family.”
Jim McNelis, the President of School Board 73.5, told the village board Monday night, “We must do better; the status quo is certainly not an option.”
A meeting is scheduled for next week at McCracken Middle School as members of the community will be asked to give suggestions to an ad hoc committee led by Trustee Randy Roberts.
McNelis addressed two major concerns about Main Street: The speed of the traffic on the thoroughfare and vehicles coming onto Main from side streets due to the lack of stop signs. He believes the drivers are forced to use aggressive techniques to merge into traffic.
McNelis wants to see stop signs around intersections near schools and the parks, not just on Main Street, but throughout the village.
Kate Donegan, the superintendent of 73.5, also spoke to the village board during the meeting, echoing many of the sentiments made by McNelis.
Melina Kelson, an 11-year resident of Skokie with a child at School District 73.5, has an online petition calling for a series of changes that have been endorsed by approximately 300 people. She would also like to see further exploration on the idea of speed bumps, which the village has frowned on in the past citing fears of slowing down public safety and emergency vehicles.
“I’m not a traffic engineer,” Kelson said. “I’m just a concerned parent. I’m willing to hear their argument why they don’t have them in place.”
Van Dusen said he would like to see the changes in place by the start of the 2012-13 school year. In the meantime, Roberts wants solid information to work off of, before any changes can be put in place.
“I think people know we should slow down and see what some of the professional recommendations are,” Roberts said. “That doesn’t mean the citizens shouldn’t have input. They live there and they know what conditions are like on a day-to-day basis. But I think we need to get that first step done, that baseline traffic study and then we start looking at stop signs and other signage.”
While discussing the sadness he and everyone felt about Vo’s death, Roberts acknowledged the alleged crime would have been hard to stop under most circumstances.
“This was also criminal conduct,” he said. “You can have all the traffic signals in the world and someone runs and disobeys them and drives recklessly. That doesn’t mean we can’t try and do better.”
Roberts also serves as the liaison to the village’s public safety committee and their next meeting is scheduled for June 13 where he believes this incident will also be discussed. He said in the wake of Carter’s death that more complaints have come in about traffic near the intersection of Main Street and St. Louis Avenue, even though the village did make some changes to the area in recent years.
“Especially now more and more complaints have surfaced about drivers going too fast with close calls and children there,” he said. “There has been quite a bit of police enforcement activity.”