Kalen Kirk’s tragic death earlier this week has prompted calls for improved safety on Clubhouse Road in Lakeland.
- George Jenkins High School student struck and killed trying to catch bus early Monday morning
- Don Cooper believed safety issues on Clubhouse Road made it a tragedy in the making
- Residents along road and student's parents said street lights may have prevented accident
The George Jenkins High School student was struck and killed by a school crossing guard supervisor as he tried to cross the road in the dark Monday morning. He was trying to get to his school bus stop.
Residents along the road and Kirk's parents said street lights along the road may have prevented the accident.
Right after the crash, a county traffic department manager told a newspaper she didn’t recall any requests for street lights on the road in recent years. That turns out not to be true.
Don Cooper lives in the Kinsley Court subdivision at the intersection of Dismuke Drive and Clubhouse Road. In 2009 and 2010 he exchanged emails with Polk County Traffic and Engineering employee Jeffrey Alspaugh.
In the emails Cooper expressed concerns for safety along the road. In one of his emails he wrote: “We also believe that this intersection poses a greater potential public hazard than other surrounding intersections which have lighting. This disparity is unfair.”
The county studied traffic conditions on the road and rejected Cooper’s request. Alspaugh wrote in part:“The ruling still stands. Until such time as the crash history, for that intersection, shows a significant number of crashes during the hours of darkness, the intersection does not warrant street lighting.”
Polk County has several thousand miles of paved roads and only several hundred have street lights. The county has a limited budget for street lighting and has strict formulas for where to install them.
Cooper said conditions on the road have been a tragedy in the making.
"Tragedy happened. The only thing was it didn’t happen at Dismuke and Clubhouse. It happened a quarter mile down the road at one of the next subdivisions. But the scenario is the same,” he said.
A spokesman for the county road department said the county official misspoke when she didn’t recall the lighting request from six years ago. He said the county will conduct a comprehensive review of safety on Clubhouse Road in light of the tragedy.