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I am writing you today to raise several issues concerning traffic safety around schools. While everyone values the safety of children and students, the lack of safe streets in front of schools can often jeopardize that ideal. If the safety of pedestrians and our students is to improve, the Livermore Police Department along with Livermore city planners must implement new traffic safety measures such as crossing guards, better-marked crosswalks, and increased patrols in busy school zones. From my experience, one of the most prevalent issues is drivers ignoring pedestrians’ right of way in crosswalks.
In my time at Mendenhall Middle School, several young students were either grazed or nearly hit by drivers ignoring their right of way on the Ontario Drive crosswalk.
This preventable problem has arisen due to the lack of visibility and mindfulness for the crosswalk. The same issue occurs in front of Granada High School on Wall Street where many drivers become impatient and will drive into a crosswalk while it is being used.
One day last fall I was crossing the street to get to school with my friend Ross after getting early morning bagels. We waited until the coast was clear and began to cross the street. We didn’t notice; however, that a car was speeding down Wall Street, barely stopping short at the crosswalk. I remember pushing Ross towards the crosswalk to get him out of the way and thinking how annoying it would be to miss press day in my Journalism class.
Ross and I were scared.
Both of us had experienced something that we shouldn’t have and I know others have felt the same way. I know I speak for many when I say that kind of behavior is dangerous and unacceptable and needs to come to an end. Secondly, there are several locations where no traffic safety exists at all. For example, there is a crosswalk on the intersection of Wall Street and Sonoma that is almost completely unmarked save the lines. Students trying to get to school and back to their car at the end of the day often have to play an extreme game of Frogger, dodging cars and stopping in the middle of the street while cars roll through. This same issue can be seen in front of many other Livermore schools including Livermore High School, East Avenue, Emma Smith, and formerly LVCS.
I personally grew up in a neighborhood near Granada High School and had to face a dangerous crosswalk every day on my route to school. Due to the increasing risk of being hit, I started to leave almost an hour before school started to avoid crossing the street when there was traffic. Of course, many would argue that it is the pedestrians responsibility to cross at a time that is safe; however, it is actually a joint responsibility. Drivers and students must be aware of each other and be patient. Someone shouldn’t have to worry about being hit by a car on a routine walk to school and I know I am not the only student who has felt this way.
The final issue is lack of consequences for individuals who don’t practice safe and alert driving practices in school zones. For example, many drivers, including parents and students, weave in and out of traffic, double park and block off parking lot exits. For the last two years of my high school experience I drove to school to avoid the dangers of walking. I was, however, met with an entirely different set of obstacles on the road. Several drivers who were picking up students would weave into the opposite lane in order to get around a few cars, risking a head on collision. When there was no curb parking many would also double park in the street. This disregard for basic traffic law would often worsen the issue of those cutting in and out traffic. This is, by far the most severe problem facing students and acts as a catalyst for the other issues.
The first problem stated has an obvious solution and the best example is provided on the El Pedro Street and the Ontario Drive crosswalk. There is no protection there save a stop sign that many drivers ignore, and the only crossing guard nearby Mendenhall Middle School is stationed on El Caminito. Some argue that that location is the more logical of the two, considering the street is much wider; however, it would be more of a benefit to have a crossing guard at both crosswalks. If both streets were to have provided protection for students, then the fear of children being hit will be lessened considerably. Crossing guards would be most effective for Kindergarten through Eighth grade age children, because the younger a child is the more irresponsible or less cautious they are. While it is true crossing guards are furnished by the schools individually, who is to say the Traffic Division could not nudge them in the right direction. We are all trying to keep students safe, after all.
In order to improve upon existing crosswalks, the Traffic safety division along with city planners should include a crossing signal like the many in our city. Further down Wall Street, workers installed a crossing signal to improve the safety of students. Not only was this an effective improvement, but it lessened the effects from poor driving habits in the immediate surrounding area. The crossing signal was a considerable enhancement, but further changes can and should be made. For example, there are two more crosswalks on Wall Street which prove to be a greater danger to students. One of these lies at the base of Boot Hill at the intersection between Judith Way and Wall Street the other at the Sonoma and Wall Street intersection.
Both of these are a greater danger to students because they have to face the fast-moving traffic on Stanley Boulevard and the others have to cross at a blind turn. If both of these crosswalks were to have signals added to them, pedestrians could better alert drivers to their presence in order to walk safely. As stated above, many drivers have trouble following basic laws of the road when the school rush hour is occuring. An increased patrol in school zones during before and after school hours will act as a deterrent for unsafe drivers. If an officer were to simply be present on the road many would be dissuaded from making poor choices. This would improve the safety of students and fellow drivers.
Coupled with the other two safety measures mentioned previously, increased patrols would also help officers identify those breaking the law in spite of the safety improvements. If we are to make schools a truly safe space for students, the solutions listed above must be put into effect. All of us value the safety and well being of our city’s children above all things and must prioritize as such. Crossing guards, improved crosswalks, and increased patrols should be implemented surrounding our schools. Again these improvements would make crosswalks safer and the road safer for student drivers. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to aid this effort.
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