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Mom Asks Village Board to Support 'Kaylah's Cause'

The mother of a Hometown eighth-grader who was killed crossing the intersection of Cicero Avenue and Southwest Highway asks for Oak Lawn Village Board's help to make corner safer for pedestrians.

In a room before sobbing parents and children, Krista Wilkinson spoke of the agony that her family has suffered in the six weeks since her daughter, Kaylah Lentine, 14, was struck by a pickup truck and killed crossing the intersection of Southwest Highway and Cicero Avenue.

Watch the video of Krista Wilkinson's statement.

Kaylah had missed the school bus the morning of May 24 and decided to walk the two miles from her family’s residence in Hometown to where she was to have received a leadership award at the eighth-grade awards assembly.

The accident is still under police investigation and no charges have been brought against the driver.

“My daughter Kaylah was a great kid,” Wilkinson said, speaking before the on Tuesday.

“She was a loving big sister, granddaughter, daughter, niece, cousin and friend," Wilkinson said of her daughter. "She was a member of SADD, Students Against Destructive Decisions, for four years beginning in grade school, and the leader for the last two years at the middle school.”

Read the 2011 story of OLHMS's SADD efforts to promote prom safety.

Wilkinson, her father, Don, and other family members are asking the village to lobby the Illinois Department of Transportation for

The family believes that had there been a pedestrian crossing light and ADA-compliant pedestrian access at the intersection, Kaylah might be alive today.

Supported by her fiancé, Bob Nelson, during public comments at Tuesday’s Oak Lawn Village Board meeting, Wilkinson told village board members The intersection of Southwest Highway and Cicero Avenue is the only intersection, traveling south along Cicero from 79th Street to 115th Street, that does NOT have a pedestrian Crossing Light with an activation button. 

“Instead of taking her and her friends to laser tag, and planning her graduation party this summer, I had to plan her wake and funeral,” the Hometown mom said. “Why should the choice to walk to school be a deadly one?”

Active Transportation Alliance, a transportation advocacy group that has worked with such towns as Des Plaines to develop safer and more walkable communities, has compiled a list of recommendations to modify the intersection.

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According to ActiveTrans, there were 21 pedestrian and bicycle accidents involving cars that occurred along Cicero Avenue between 91st and 95th Streets, and on 95th Street between Museum Drive and Kilbourn Avenue, based on IDOT statistics for 2006-2010.

Three pedestrian fatalities happened at 92nd and 95th Street at Cicero Avenue, and at 95th Street and Kenton Avenue.

Proposed modifications for the Cicero Avenue and Southwest Highway intersection include:

  • 8 new zebra style crosswalks;
  • 8 pedestrian signals with countdown timers;
  • 2 new pedestrian islands;
  • 12 truncated domes and
  • 12 ADA-compliant curb ramps.

Trustee Alex Olejniczak (Dist. 2), in whose district where Kaylah Lentine was killed, said the had and met with the girl’s family a few weeks ago to discuss their concerns.

“I would hope that we as a village board would support these modifications and do everything we can to bring this up in front of IDOT,” Olejniczak said. “I know that State. Rep. Kelly Burke said that she would also work on making this a safer intersection.”

Mayor Dave Heilmann said he’d like the see the process accelerated through IDOT before school starts up again next month.

"Do what Kaylah would have done for any of her friends or family members," Wilkinson said, " and make it safe for kids and adults in our community to walk, bike and drive."

Krista Wilkinson and family are asking residents in Oak Lawn and Hometown to support “Kaylah’s Cause,” by printing the pdf of the traffic request form, and circulating and signing the petitions. Only one person per household may sign the petition. Mail the petitions to Kaylah’s Cause. c/o 4570 W. 88th Street, Hometown, IL, 60456. The petitions need to be submitted to the village by July 25.

IF YOU CANNOT GET THE PDF TO PRINT, PLEASE EMAIL LORRAINE AT LORRAINE.SWANSON@PATCH.COM.

Insensitive or Right? July 11, 2012 at 01:55 PM
I'm all for making intersections safer but...... In this case, the Oak Lawn Patch reported the following: "A man who witnessed the accident from his car while he was stopped in traffic facing southbound on Cicero Avenue, said it looked like the girl became confused crossing the intersection. “She got into the turning lane and jumped back like she knew she made a mistake,” Kevin Kaplan said. “She just started across the intersection like she was going to make a run for it. The truck never even saw her." It sounds like she wasn't obeying the traffic signal.
BibbidyBobbidyBoo July 11, 2012 at 02:34 PM
That intersection is huge. Imagine trying to cross it on foot, with dozens of cars whizzing through there, many of the drivers distracted by phones and kids and food and music. So many drivers think THEY have the right of way. So a young teen is trying to get to school, crossing this ridiculously wide intersection and she became "confused", as the witness states. There is no "walk" signal so she had to make a good guess as to when to cross. Of course she was confused!
tmarc75 July 11, 2012 at 02:43 PM
I concur.
Lorraine Swanson (Editor) July 11, 2012 at 03:04 PM
I reported what a witness told me and did my job. I did not rely on readers' comments to a story as some have suggested that I do. You have also taken the above out of context because the witness said it appeared that the light changed while she was still in the intersection and she became confused. Many people also came to me with graphic details of what they saw, which I kept out of the story out of "sensitivity." This is not to mention the many idiotic, imflammatory and insensitive comments that I had to delete from the stories in the days following the accident. That's a confusing intersection, and without pedestrian crossing lights and other safety enhancements, anyone would become confused and have trouble crossing it. It sounds, 'Insensitive or Right?' that you also think nothing should be done to make that corner safer--the only intersection on Cicero between 79th and 115th Streets without a pedestrian crossing signal--until another person is killed that you deem was obeying traffic signals. Every corner should and can be made safe for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.
Lorraine Swanson (Editor) July 11, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Thank-you, BBB.
jmac July 11, 2012 at 03:43 PM
If there was a traffic signal to obey maybe she would have. I travel through this intersection several times a day and see children, adults & edlerly try to cross in a "hurry" just to make it to the other side before the light changes and vehicles speed through the intersection. There are no visual cross walks or crossing signals to tell a pedestrian that is or is not safe to cross. I think a MAJOR problem is that drivers have forgotten a simple "Rule of the Road"....PEDESTRIAN'S HAVE THE RIGHT AWAY, ALWAYS! We were all taught this in driver's education or have you forgotten this too???? You shouldn't blame an innocent child.
andy skoundrianos July 11, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Lorraine keep on reporting the news as you do... The right way Patch is the only source for local news!!!
Insensitive or Right? July 11, 2012 at 05:00 PM
I guess I'm confused. We crossed streets for many years by looking at the traffic signal and crossing when the light you're facing is green. The reported article stated that the child was hit by a car coming in the turn lane. I assumed that meant that the light she was facing was not green but red. Maybe the report needed a sketch. As for Andy's comments, I don't know what he is saying. Who is complaining about the WAY it was reported? If the pedestrian is heading south crossing SW Highway and someone turned from Cicero, that is a problem with the driver but the report didn't say that did it? This appeared to be a pedestrian crossing who was hit in the turn lane of the same side she was crossing on. I don't think we should be running out to change lights and crossings without realizing the causes of the accidents
OakLawnGuy July 11, 2012 at 05:57 PM
"Insensitive or Right?" I'll take Insensitive. Comparing pedestrian performance from the past is irrelevant and wrong-headed. That intersection is about the least safe in Oak Lawn, not to mention South Cicero Ave. as a whole. The evidence is there and has been gathered proving that the convoluted corner is at best difficult to navigate, and consistently a risk for anyone on foot. What's your objection to improving the signals and painting a crosswalk on both streets? Why do you feel it would be just fine not to "run out" and do so? For all the waste of taxpayers' money, this improvement would be dollars well spent.
SNelson July 11, 2012 at 10:04 PM
The state has made this intersection wheel chair accessible, which is ironic bc you would need a jet-pack to cross safely. So, what are the chances of one on foot getting across safely?? I think the whole corner is a hazard for all involved. Big improvements are desparately needed. Oh an by the way "insensitive or right?" The driver was NOT in the turn lane. This is the largest intersection, with 8 lanes, why would you not want to make this safer for all to cross??
Kaitlin July 12, 2012 at 12:01 AM
I think everyone is missing the point here. The point is a young girl died and we can't say what if this and what if that. Death has no what ifs. When I initially read the first articles it made it sound as if the driver had no way to avoid it. Either way this impacted the family of the girl and the driver. My heart goes out to the family and the driver. It's called an accident for a reason.
Monica July 12, 2012 at 04:59 AM
A young girl died. A young girl who did not get to find her dreams and live them. A family is still grieving for their loss. A family who has to miss her every day for the rest of their lives. My friend, Krista Wilkerson and her family, lost a piece of their heart. I saw how they were throughout this whole process, along with seeing their daughter in the hospital. It breaks my heart for them to loss someone so special in their lives. Help them to change the crosswalks and make them safe. Give Kaylah's name and life more meaning than it was to her family. Give other people a chance to know it was Kaylah's memory to help make them safe as crosswalks. Keep her name in your hearts as you help her family fight for this cause! Thank you.
swimmer July 12, 2012 at 12:02 PM
I think that is a dangerous intersection to drive thru. I am surprised to hear there are no pedestrian signals.
William Melvin July 12, 2012 at 01:58 PM
To Loraine: I uploaded a photo by mistake. I was trying to upload a video Kaylah's friends made for her. You can delete the photo. I was trying to delete it but can't figure out how. I apologize
Samara July 12, 2012 at 04:02 PM
I'm 32 years old and for me as a grown adult am puzzled on how to cross that intersection, the bottom line is it needs modifications! I live in the Hometown Co=op and last summer my daughter and i almost got hit by a car crossing from Cicero to 88th PL, we were coming back home after working out at LA Fitness, we stood there waiting for the light to turn red on Cicero for the cars to stop almost 7 minutes, i hit the activation button several times and it never worked, finally the light turned red and we began not walking but running and HALF WAY through the light went green for Cicero once again! the left and middle lane saw me crossing and waited but a car zooming down the right lane couldnt or didnt see us and i don't know what made me turn my head but i saw the car coming and jumped back with my 5 year old, the car never even slowed down or hit the brakes that is the last time i ever crossed Cicero, i cannot imagine how an elderly person, diasbled person or as in this sad case how a child like Kaylah could cross safely! Cicero is a beast! I know there are tons of safe drivers but there are even more reckless ones who zoom down the streets as if they owned them and don't even realize that there are people on foot that they need to look out for, i have also heard complaints from the intersection from the CVS on 87th crossing over to Uncle Sams that the pedestrian light doesn't work either! I think all f Cicero needs to be modifies.
PD July 12, 2012 at 09:15 PM
How insensitive is the comment above. If he/she wasn't there why should he/she even comment!! Kaylah is not here to defend herself.
Lorraine Swanson (Editor) July 13, 2012 at 06:41 AM
Samara, all of the traffic lights north on Cicero Avenue between 95th and 115th Streets have been updated.
Jim Chalil July 31, 2012 at 05:23 PM
How sad is it when a child isn't given the opportunity to life their life to the fullest and a parent having to bury their child..These things when possible should not happen and having some safer options at this large and busy intersection can only help people avoid injury and death so I support any changes that can be made to make it safer for all especially those that live in the community and in that area. I as a resident find this intersection ridiculous! It is always busy (Watch it for one day and you will see) and people at many times don't even pay attention to the lights that are there so we need to make it safer for pedestrians to go from one are to the other. If the city or the town can cough up the money to make it safer for the people then the people need to do what is best for them and their future generations and if that means collecting money to pay for this on our own so then be it. If each person in our community were to pay $10.00 as a minimum we wouldn't have any problem funding this and I am sure many of us would pay more as we have children and know how unsafe this intersection is and are more than willing to protect and keep them safe at any cost. I can't imagine what Kaylah's family is going thru and don't think they should have had to go thru this. If you have seen this intersection in the morning by actually trying to cross it then you would know why it needs to be addressed. I for one any not open to the chance of anyone else getting injured here .

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