Local school tries to make streets safer with social media campaign

HARLEY PKG 11

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -Bike Walk Savannah is partnering with Charles Ellis Montessori Academy to try to make streets around three Savannah schools safer, but they need help from the community to make it happen.

They’re applying for a $50,000 grant to improve traffic safety. Julia Grabowski, who attended Charles Ellis, knows walking to the school can be dangerous.

“There was this driver coming down the street perpendicular to me," Grabowski said. "I was about to cross and without slowing down he just made a really sharp turn around the corner when I was about to cross.”

She said she sometimes walks less busy streets to avoid scary situations she’s experienced on busier streets, like Habersham Street.

A recent study by Zendrive, a company collecting data to understand driver behavior, shows Charles Ellis Montessori Academy and two other nearby schools at the bottom of the safe streets list.

“Jacob G. Smith and Savannah Arts Academy also were in this same category of the streets not being safe around the school, and since they are so close together, there’s this opportunity for us to apply for this grant,” Denise Grabowski, Julia's mom, said.

Bike Walk Savannah is competing with 23 other cities for the grant, and one of the criteria to win is community support. The group had to make a 30-second video, post it on Twitter and have people retweet it to show the public supports the project.

“The good news is when we make the street safer for people walking to school with their kids or for kids walking to school by themselves, they become safer for everyone,” said John Bennett, executive director of Bike Walk Savannah. "That includes people who live in the neighborhood, and it includes people who drive through the neighborhood. Obviously, we will be collaborating with the city of Savannah on this. The good news is there was a plan created for this school several years ago, so we have a document we can get to work on. We are already ahead in that regard.”

Some of those improvements would happen at intersections and crosswalks. They also want to make the school zones more noticeable.

“My son is in third grade, and we walk every morning," Grabowski said. "There are driver behaviors that can be addressed, and there are also some really minor street improvements that can really help improve safety around the school."

The video is on Bike Walk Savannah’s Twitter. A retweet will help them get closer to the $50,000 prize. The deadline to retweet it is 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

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