Each weekday morning and every weekday afternoon, traffic slows to a crawl on Brooklet-Denmark Road, with cars lined up sometimes as far as the eye can see. The traffic jam is caused by hundreds of drivers trying to get to or from school.
A four-way stop just yards away from Southeast Bulloch Middle and High schools is part of the problem, some say. The intersection of Brooklet-Denmark, Pretoria-Rushing and Brannen Pond roads was a two-way stop in the past, but in the summer of 2016, Bulloch County commissioners made it a four-way stop to reduce accidents.
In 2016, Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn told the Statesboro Herald there had been 22 collisions and one fatality at the intersection since 2013.
"We looked at the CAD, or computer-aided dispatch sheets, and it appeared that most of the accidents were occurring during the daylight hours, around or close to school taking-in time or letting-out time," he said then.
Since the installation of the four-way stop two years ago, there has only been one minor accident in that spot, said Bulloch County Board of Commissioners Chairman Roy Thompson. But while the accidents have been reduced, some parents say the traffic backup is still dangerous as well as highly inconvenient for parents and students trying to get to school safely and on time.
Lisa Ryles has seen “several near-wrecks” at the intersection, as well as near the entryways to the schools. Traffic is bad at the end of Brooklet-Denmark Road and Highway 67, too, she said.
With one child attending Southeast Bulloch Middle School and another going to the high school, getting them to class on time is a struggle, she said.
I have to leave 25 minutes earlier than I did last year to get them to school by 7:20 a.m. and even then they are still late — traffic is backed up. People on side streets are trying to get into the traffic line, and it is horrible.Krystle Carter, who has children attending Brooklet area schools
“Afternoons are better this year” because they let high school students out at a different time, but “mornings are horrific,” she said. “The four-way stop is more of a problem, especially when we have to drop students off at both schools.”
Sometimes, Ryles has had to wait over 10 minutes just to make a left turn from the school campus, since the traffic lines are so steady and long, not to mention slow-moving.
“It’s horrible,” said Drew Williams, who has two teens attending the schools that have adjacent campuses. One is dual-enrolled, so he drives, but Williams takes his other son to school.
While he acknowledges the reason the county installed the four-way stop, since the change, “traffic is worse,” he said. “It takes 15 minutes just to get from the school to the stop sign.”
It is frustrating, especially in the mornings when parents are trying to get to work on time as well as get kids to class before the bell rings, he said.
Krystle Carter has children attending Brooklet area schools — Brooklet Elementary as well as the middle and high school. Getting them to school is a nightmare, she said.
“I have to leave 25 minutes earlier than I did last year to get them to school by 7:20 a.m. and even then they are still late — traffic is backed up. People on side streets are trying to get into the traffic line, and it is horrible,” she said.
Bulloch County sheriff’s School Resource Officer Ross Newman helps direct traffic in the school parking lots, but he doesn’t direct traffic at the four-way stop, said Bulloch County sheriff’s Capt. Todd Hutchens.
“We don’t have deputies there for two reasons,” he said. “One, we found that a deputy at the four-way stop doesn’t expedite traffic, and two, we don’t have enough deputies” to spare for regular traffic patrol there.
Searching for solutions
Thompson held a special called meeting in late August to hear citizens’ input on the problem and plans a second public hearing on the matter in the near future.
“We (commissioners) are actively discussing it as a result of the special called meeting,” he said Thursday.
However, no solution has been decided. Constructing as roundabout has been one suggestion, but not everyone is in favor of that move.
“For farmers, a roundabout won’t do,” Williams said. “They need to go back to a two-way stop with a caution light to make people aware of the stop sign.”
Thompson said if a roundabout were to be installed, it would need to be “a big one” to accommodate school buses as well as farm equipment in the largely agricultural area.
And, choosing that option would necessitate acquiring land “on all four corners” to build a large enough roundabout, he said.
Ryles said having more than one entry point to the schools would be a great help. She said she understands the reason the intersection was made into a four-way, but it has “made traffic worse.”
Carter, on the other hand, thinks taking away the four-way stop isn’t the answer.
“Maybe have a second drop-off area is an idea,” she said. “Maybe more buses or split routes.”
She has seen buses unloading more children than she feels should have been on the bus and said one of her children has had to sit on the floor or stand in the aisles on a school bus.
“Something has got to be done,” she said.
Thompson said a date has not yet been set for a second public hearing on the traffic matter.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.