Community advocates for better bus stop safety after an 8-year-old dies

The unimaginable heartache for one Cape Coral family is urging a community into action.

“There should be no kids that have lost their life because of this,” Traci Debusman said.

“I was heartbroken,” Mari Whitney said. “I have grandkids this age and it just breaks my heart.”

8-year-old girl in a hit-and-run crash Monday morning. (Credit: Aiken Family)
Layla Aiken, 8, died in a hit-and-run crash Monday morning. (Credit: Aiken Family)

The community wants school bus stops to be safer for children in their neighborhoods.

The mayor of Cape Coral told WINK News all options for bus stop safety are on the table. He said the city’s traffic engineers, school district and Lee County Electric Cooperative would all be working together to come up with possible solutions for safer bus stops.

But, people are not waiting for Cape Coral Police or for the city to step in.

They are taking action now to make sure kids are safe while waiting for school buses.

“Bottom line here is nothing has changed,” Erin Diaz said. “Nothing has changed.”

Diaz and Debusman are trying to organize a group to build benches for bus stops. But they know it is going to take a lot more than a place for children to sit.

There are also rules in place that prevent benches from being placed at any bus stop without prior approval. Placing furniture in the public right of way is not permitted without a right-of-way permit.

Doing so, could result in a Code Compliance and the responsible person would be asked to remove the furniture.

The public right-of-way is owned by the city and is the easement area located along roadways. As the property owner you can place a bench in your yard outside the public right-of-way. Each home has a 6 foot easement where the street meets the front yard. Any bench 6 feet away from the easement on your property is OK.

Placing furniture on private property is allowed with the appropriate permission of the property owner.

Other citizens think the problem extends past just adding more benches.”That’s one of the biggest solutions I think is having lighting,” Debusman said. “Another problem that we have too, is sidewalks.”

Dark streets and a lack of safe sidewalks for kids to walk, like the bus stop where 8-year-old Layla Aiken was fatally hit.”

Monday morning, there’s going to be kids getting on the bus in the dark,” Mari Whitney said.That is why Whitney said there need to be more eyes on the children.”

I think we need a bandaid solution until the end of this school year,” Whitney said.She is working on getting neighbors to stand at the stops with kids during the dark early morning hours.”

Walk out your front door, check these kids,” Diaz said. “We’re a community and it really does take a village.”

Reporter:Taylor Petras
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