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Upshot of North Hollywood Accident : New Light Signals Triumph for Safety

May 23, 1986|STEPHANIE CHAVEZ | Times Staff Writer

One teacher jokingly called it the "biggest turn-on this semester" at North Hollywood High School when a new traffic signal was switched on Thursday at a busy intersection where three cheerleaders were hit by a car and injured in September.

A crowd of students, teachers, parents, the three cheerleaders--all recovered--and even the school band gathered at Magnolia Boulevard and Morella Avenue for the switch-flicking ceremony. It was an event that students said came about because of their perseverance in petitioning city officials to install the signal.

"It's nice to see something so good come out of something so awful," said Nicole Dezen, 16, one of the cheerleaders who was struck by a car while crossing the intersection on Sept. 13. Dezen suffered a broken collarbone, torn leg ligaments and kneecap damage.

The driver, who was temporarily blinded by the morning sun, was not cited.

Accident Sparked Anger

The accident touched off a wave of anger from parents and students who had previously asked the city to install a stoplight, or at least a blinking caution light, at the T-shaped intersection immediately in front of the school's main gate.

Their meetings, petitions and letter-writing campaigns prompted a speedy study of the intersection by the city Department of Traffic, which determined that the volume of cars and pedestrians in the area warranted a signal. Howard Lampert, a city transportation engineer, said the Magnolia-Morella intersection "well exceeded" the minimum volume required before a signal can be installed in a school zone--100 pedestrians and 500 cars an hour for at least two hours a day.

Quick Installation

It took less than eight months for city officials to study the area and install the $50,000 signal, a process Lampert said usually takes more than a year.

"This light was put in faster than any that I know of," City Councilman Joel Wachs said. "The students, faculty, parents all acted as a community to make this happen."

Julie de Azevedo, 17, who suffered an injured hip and broken leg and shoulder in the accident, said, "We kind of feel like we helped out to get this light--I mean it wasn't our choice, but hopefully this won't happen again.

"As soon as people get used to stopping at the light, it will be safer."

That process got under way immediately. Police ticketed the first traffic light offender--a student who walked across Magnolia against the red light.

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