By Johnny Jackson
Twelve-year-old Kaitlyn Texidor is making progress toward a full recovery, a year after she was struck at her bus stop by a passing motorist.
"She's not completely healed," said her father, Hilton Texidor. "She's still having a little pain in her legs."
On the afternoon of Jan. 14, 2008, a driver hit Kaitlyn near her bus stop as she crossed the street to go home. She lives along one of Henry County's busier thoroughfares, just off of Jonesboro Road in Hampton.
As a result of the accident, Kaitlyn was transported by helicopter to Children's Health Care of Atlanta at Egleston, where she underwent major surgery for two broken legs. She also suffered a bruised liver and lacerations on one of her kidneys and her adrenal glands.
She went through about four months of physical therapy and receives regular check-ups with an orthopedic doctor. "She's doing well," said her mother, Debra Woodson.
Now a seventh-grader at Dutchtown Middle School in Hampton, Kaitlyn and her older sister are among a few dozen students who live along her bus route.
"The bus now picks them up and drives them off on the side of the road," Woodson said.
Her school bus driver has been allowed access to the Moore's Temple Baptist Church parking lot as a means to turn the bus around during the route to make pick-ups and drop-offs on the right side of the road.
According to school officials, many school bus routes are designed to pick-up and deliver students door-to-door on the right side of the road.
"As with all bus routes that service busy roads, we strive to make sure every stop is serviced by door-side pickup and drop off [when possible]," said Cliff Shearouse, the school system's director of transportation services.
In Henry County, school bus routes vary greatly. Some serve sparse, rural areas, while others include high-density, urban communities. The school system, which operates 353 school buses for more than 23,000 students, gets frequent reports of motorists unlawfully passing school buses.
"Our drivers take extra precautions, when picking students up or dropping them off, to ensure all traffic has stopped before allowing students to move toward, or exit, the bus," Shearouse said. "The drivers work diligently with their students, teaching them the hand signals to watch for from the driver."
He said that all motorists should be aware of, and understand, basic traffic rules pertaining to school buses. When a bus is approaching a school bus stop, and the four-way amber lights come on, motorists should stop. A stop sign will appear with flashing red lights, when the bus has stopped.
"This is the sign for other motorists to remain stopped, and wait for students to load or unload the bus," Shearouse said. "During this entire process, the safest thing for motorists to do is watch for students who may be running toward the bus."
Parents and students are asked to be at the child's bus stop five minutes before the bus arrives.
Shearouse added that the driver has the responsibility to watch the road in front of him or her, watch the students behind, and to know the surroundings at all times.
Kaitlyn's mother, Debra Woodson, said she can see how people can become distracted at times on the road. She said she believes it is, all the same, important to be especially cautious in school zones and near bus stops.
"I'd tell them [motorists] to be very careful," she said. "Slow down if you see a bus, even if there isn't a stop sign, or the lights aren't on. Let the bus driver wave you around."
She recalled being at work when she received the call from her oldest daughter, letting her know that Kaitlyn had been hit by a car at the bus stop.
"I was shocked," she said. "She was screaming [through the phone] that she couldn't feel her legs, and she was in pain. It's something a parent doesn't want to experience - to think that you could have lost your child."