Wednesday evening, 5-year-old Bradley Williams and his mother, Melissa, walked up to the podium at Carnegie Forum to address the Lodi City Council and staff. His mother lifted and held him as he spoke into the microphone.
“I got hit by a car in front of my school,” Bradley said.
Bradley, who attends Reese Elementary School, was struck on Nov. 22 by a truck while using the crosswalk on West Elm Street with his mother and aunt after kindergarten dismissal. He sustained a concussion and minor bruising, according to Mellissa.
“We were in the middle of the crosswalk, and the crosswalk lights were flashing, my son was three feet in front of me and there were people walking behind us. This truck was going so fast, none of us even saw it,” Mellissa said as she recalls the incident. “I did not know if he was alive or what happened. It was the most terrifying experience in my life.”
Mellissa said the driver, who was a firefighter with the Stockton Fire Department, stopped after hitting her son.
“He was going way too fast down Elm Street and was not paying attention. I still get nightmares thinking about what happened,” Mellissa said.
Her fear prompted her to attend the Lodi City Council meeting Wednesday night to raise awareness about the perpetual danger that lingers at the intersection where her son was hit.
Following the incident, Melissa spoke with officials at the Lodi Unified School District about retaining a crossing guard for kindergarten dismissal.
On Monday, the assistant-superintendant for the district notified Melissa that the district had secured a crossing guard for kindergarten students.
Despite the minor victory, Melissa said she felt it was time a more comprehensive solution was established. During the council meeting, she explained that motorists continuously ignore traffic rules and the speed limit at the intersection.
On occasion, she has witnessed cars drive through the intersection without yielding for pedestrians.
The intersection is located near three school campuses —Reese Elementary, Millswood Middle and Lodi High School — which has contributed to a daily increase of vehicle and pedestrian traffic, she said.
Councilman Bob Johnson, who is familiar with the location, said when school ends motorist are particularly reckless, ignoring traffic laws.
“When the school is emptying out it sounds like the Indianapolis 500. You see people drive through, ignoring cars pulling out of parking spaces, it is a really big mess,” Johnson said.
He said the council has been hearing about similar traffic issues throughout the city for years, and suggested the city increase police patrols at the intersection periodically to avoid future accidents.
“We should treat it like a DUI checkpoint. That might make an impression on the drivers. Just every couple of weeks have an officer out there monitoring the issue,” he said.
Captain Sierra Breccia said the Lodi Police Department could implement pedestrian stings to monitor traffic flow at the intersection. He added that since the council meeting, the department has spoken with school resource officers about being visible when school starts and ends, to mitigate traffic collisions and enforce traffic laws.
“We have moved our speed trailer to Elm and Mills to monitor driver speeds,” Brucia said.
City Manager Steve Schwabauer stated as a result of Measure L funding, the city has hired six new officers, which will help the police department reassemble their traffic unit.
In addition to the possibility of increased police patrols, Melissa spoke with the city’s traffic engineering department to determine whether they could install an in-street pedestrian sign like the one at West Elm Street near the police department.
Lodi Public Works Director Charles Swimley said the department would consider installing traffic panels.
“I am ecstatic at the response by the city and the council, especially councilman Johnson’s request to increase police presence. I was not sure what would come of the meeting,” Melissa said.
Having lived through the ordeal, Melissa said she wanted to bring awareness to the issue to ensure the safety of other students.
“We were lucky nothing too serious happened (to Bradley), but hopefully we can prevent serious accidents from taking place in the future,” she said.