By Corpus Christi Caller-Times
The community response to the death of a King High School student in a crosswalk near school was an example of Corpus Christi showing its true, generous heart. The gift by the two Pasta Company franchisees of their profits for a day deserves special praise. They racked up more than $7,000 for funeral expenses, bolstered by $3,500 and counting to a GoFundMe account.
These gifts have done much to renew the faith of Rai-ane Garza’s family in the goodness of people. Rai-ane, 16, was crossing in the crosswalk at South Staples Street and Mustang Trail when, according to witness accounts, a hit-and-run driver ran a red light, plowed into her and two of her friends, killing Rai-ane and injuring one of the friends, and sped away. Those witness accounts led police to Elton Wayne Holmes.
While a teenager’s tragic death puts a spotlight on Corpus Christi as a generous community, it also is another sad indictment of our culture of reckless aggressive driving. Rai-ane and her friends were in a crosswalk where they should have been safe.
Ramming into them with a motor vehicle, then leaving the scene, was criminal behavior by one individual. But reckless disregard behind the wheel is by no means peculiar to that one individual. It is so pervasive that our police department has identified it as priority challenge, too big for speed traps to solve. The police recognize that their challenge is to change the prevailing driving attitude of a community, the same community that rallied around the Garza family in its time of grief.
Respect for traffic laws is incidental. If we drive with respect for human life — with genuine concern for others’ safety and for our own — compliance with the rules of the road will take care of itself. We commend the police department’s new policy of sending we-know-who-you-are letters to drivers seen driving aggressively. No telling how many of these drivers won’t realize who they are unless it’s pointed out to them. An inflated sense of how well we drive is not exactly a rarity.
Also, we strongly encourage a review of school zone hours. Rai-ane was crossing the street after school-zone hours, but not by much. While some drivers are reckless enough to disregard school-zone speed limits, the slow-moving other vehicles in the zone can cause enough of an obstruction to force the bad seeds to slow down.
Finally, the city and the Corpus Christi Independent School District may want to review their crossing guard staffing and funding policies. We aren’t recommending crossing guards for high schools. But this could have happened near an elementary or middle school. In 2102 the city and CCISD played hot potato with crossing guards while both looked for budget cuts. They ended up cutting paid positions by two-thirds and expanding their reliance on volunteers.
The contributions to the Garza family’s funeral expenses were beautiful gestures. Every contribution to making our streets safer, especially for school-age children, will honor Rai-ane Garza.