Police to step up patrols where 2 students struck

Police plan to increase patrols and place temporary speed-detection signs on Beatties Ford Road after two West Charlotte High School students were struck by cars this week, City Council member Al Austin said Friday.

The students were hospitalized – one of them on Friday – after cars struck them as they crossed the four-lane road away from crosswalks.

“Beatties Ford has become a main artery in the city,” said Austin, who represents District 2 and the Beatties Ford corridor on the council. “I urge parents to tell their kids to look both ways. Don’t try to beat any cars. If there is a crosswalk, go there. Don’t go in the middle of the street.”

D’Nea Watson, a 16-year-old junior, was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after she was struck in the 1500 block of Beatties Ford by a 1998 Nissan Altima just before 7 a.m. Friday, police said. Her condition was unavailable Friday night.

A spokeswoman for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools said West Charlotte High’s principal accompanied Watson to the hospital.

The driver, Ronetta Montez Nelson, 30, was traveling outbound on Beatties Ford and was not injured in the crash, police said. Drugs and alcohol were not factors in the wreck, but the investigation by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Major Crash Unit is ongoing. Police have not yet said whether Nelson could face charges.

Earlier in the week – and on the first day of school – Jennifer Crystal Tejeda, 16, was seriously injured after she was hit by a 2004 Dodge Stratus while crossing in the 1800 block shortly before noon. The driver didn’t see the student because a truck blocked her view, police said.

Tejeda, who was headed to classes at Central Piedmont Community College at the time she was struck, was in good condition Friday night, Carolinas Medical Center officials said.

It appears Watson was struck less than 100 yards from the crosswalk in front of Northwest School of the Arts, police said.

Tejeda was hit 96 feet from the crosswalk, which has caution signals, police said.

CMS board member Thelma Byers-Bailey lives on Beatties Ford, close to the scene of Monday's accident. She represents the district that includes West Charlotte High.

She said she persuaded the Charlotte Department of Transportation to put in a crossing signal near her home several years ago. She said she’s already talked to fellow board members on how to get students to use the crosswalks.

“I don't know. We can lecture them, we can tell them they’re there for their benefit,” she said. “It breaks my heart. It truly does. Regardless of whose fault it was, we do not want our children harmed like this.”

Safety concerns

The two incidents in a single week has raised questions about the safety of students walking to and from West Charlotte High along Beatties Ford Road.

The posted speed limit on that stretch is 35 mph, but speeding in the area is common, according to Cynthia Smith, a crossing guard at Northwest.

Smith has been helping students cross Beatties Ford Road for the past three years, but even the flashing school zone lights do little to get many drivers to slow to 25 mph, she said.

While Smith hasn’t personally witnessed a pedestrian get hit, she said she has heard of other incidents involving students.

“This is such a sad and unfortunate thing,” she said.

Drivers do seem less apt to speed when police vehicles are patrolling or are parked visibly along the road, she said.

“It’s helpful when officers are close by ... (Otherwise) motorists are unconcerned.”

Brittanie Williams and several other West Charlotte High students said adults should monitor where students cross the road before and after school because of speeders.

Williams and other students said they often see fellow students – and adults – cross Beatties Ford Road away from crosswalks.

“They’re not thinking about what they’re doing,” Williams said. “They should use the crosswalk.”

During a Friday afternoon media briefing on pedestrian safety, police declined to answer questions about either the accident or the condition of the students who were hit, as both incidents remain under investigation.

CMPD Detective Kevin Allred of the Major Crash Unit asked that pedestrians citywide use cross walks and traffic signals, no matter how busy a street. He urged drivers to slow down and use caution, especially in congested areas.

“It doesn’t matter whose fault it is. Nobody wants (to be involved in this type of wreck),” Allred said.

Witnesses to Friday’s wreck are asked to call Allred at 704-432-2169.

Staff writer Andrew Dunn contributed.