Those who live in Champaign-Urbana neighborhoods are hearing a common refrain lately: Irresponsible driving habits are creating dangerous situations.
These sentiments have been expressed on C-U message boards, in news reports in C-U and other towns like Mahomet, and by residents who view first-hand the careless habits of drivers in proximity to children and schools.
One such environment — this one in Savoy — spurred action by residents Kristy Wilson and Jessica Gilbert. Though they arrived at their convergence from different directions, the result they sought came to fruition.
Wilson, whose kids attend Carrie Busey Elementary in Savoy, and Gilbert — whose kids go to a different school — were among those in the community who were concerned by what they saw as an epidemic of poor driving around the school and neighborhood.
“I can find documentation as far back as April 2015 where people on our neighborhood group messaging page were complaining about people texting and driving, driving too fast on the main thoroughfares in the neighborhood, discussing installation of speed bumps, people being passed on some of the main thoroughfares for going too slow, people driving at high speeds while using their cell phones, etc.,” Wilson said. “One person private messaged me stating that he has been in contact with the Village of Savoy for four years trying to get increased police presence in the neighborhood for such things.”
On Oct. 24 last year, Wilson — who had just witnessed “parents running the stop sign where the crossing guard crosses kids across Prairie Rose and parents traveling at high rates of speed” — posted a plea on social media to “PLEASE slow down.” Her post brought forth similar concerns from others. Several months later, after she was passed during peak drop-off hours on a street that is lined with frequent bus stops, Wilson “had my final moment of inaction. I was no longer willing to sit behind my computer and put up messages on the public forum that seemed to not be changing anything.”
While Wilson sought better driving habits near the school, Gilbert wanted drivers to be more cognizant of kids playing in yards and driveways in the neighborhood. Each wrote a letter to village president Joan Dykstra, who then offered to meet with them. They also met with the Prairie Fields homeowners association board and a member of the Champaign County sheriff’s office.
The village board of trustees took up the matter on July 25, deciding to install stop signs at key intersections where there are long stretches of road leading in and out of the neighborhood. Installation began Aug. 4. The group also discussed a comprehensive traffic study.
Wilson said longtime residents that she spoke with said the new signage was “a long time coming and long overdue.” Not everyone was so positive; one resident said he has circulated a petition in favor of removing the stop signs, angered by what he views as a lack of community input in the board’s decision.
But the bottom line remains: The Savoy neighborhood around Carrie Busey has become — certainly in theory if not yet always in practice — a safer place for kids.
“I, as well as others, will continue to push the matter until we feel that we can safely walk/drive through the neighborhood with our families and not be concerned about safety when crossing streets,” Wilson said, “that a kid might run out after a ball and be struck, or that we might get rear-ended by someone who decides we are going too slow at 25 or 30 mph and passes us.”