Home News S.A.F.E.: Crosswalks at Daybreak Elementary
S.A.F.E.: Crosswalks at Daybreak Elementary

By Elly, on 14-09-2009 08:13

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    Summer is winding down in Daybreak. Neighborhood children put away their swimming suits and pull out their backpacks, gearing up for another year of education at our fantastic local schools. You’ll see them hit the sidewalks and streets on school days—walking, biking, and scootering with brothers, sisters and friends. In the morning, you’ll catch sight of a straggler hurriedly stuffing toast in her mouth as she gallops, head-down, to make it before the bell. In the afternoon, you’ll find a gaggle of boys, probably brothers, releasing a day’s worth of pent-up energy in a friendly wrestling match on the side of the road. Screeching tires and the shrieks of an injured child do not belong to these scenes, but I’m afraid we’ll hear them if we don’t address the crosswalks around our neighborhood schools.

 

   First of all, it is South Jordan City’s responsibility to paint crosswalks, put up school-crossing signs, implement school zone speed limits, and hire crossing guards. While school officials and concerned parents can bring the city’s attention to the problem areas, they can’t take on the liability themselves of getting crowds of kids across neighborhood streets. The police department performs a traffic study of the area in question, gathering data such as the frequency and speed of car traffic, the number and ages of children regularly walking through, and the nature of the site. Using those numbers, the city determines what safety measures should be taken. Unfortunately, it seems that children’s safety in South Jordan has become a low priority as crosswalks, crossing signs, and especially crossing guards are rationed out sparingly among our neighborhood schools.

 

Oakmond and Firmont    Daybreak Elementary is surrounded on four sides by public streets; consequently there are four major crosswalks at intersections that funnel children from the surrounding neighborhood into the school. Only one crosswalk has a crossing guard. Doree Strauss, principal, says that there have been “a lot of near misses”. She told me about a parent who came into her office, shaken and crying because she had nearly hit a child who darted out in front of her car. With the cars parked along those narrow Daybreak streets, visibility is extremely difficult and young children will run into the street, it’s their nature.

 

    Since the school opened five years ago, Strauss has been working with the city to get a crossing guard in place on the west side of Daybreak Elementary, at the intersection of Oakmond and Firmont. She went through all the regular channels, the police studied traffic patterns, and the city finally approved a crossing guard for the area. Then they came back and told her, “Sorry, your crossing guard is going to Eastlake Elementary.” Principal Strauss understands that Eastlake needs crossing guards too, but if the city determines an area needs a crossing guard shouldn’t they make sure it gets one? That was two years ago when Eastlake first opened and there is still no crossing guard at Oakmond and Firmont. Strauss says she keeps hearing excuse after excuse from the city.

 

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Oakmond and Pale Moon    I spent an afternoon at Daybreak Elementary the other day, and what I saw scared me. While the crosswalk at Oakmond and Firmont was full of children and cars trying to take turns getting through the intersection, the northern crosswalk at Oakmond and Pale Moon that Doree Strauss identified as her second concern stunned me. Groups of kids on bikes and skate boards would head right up the sidewalk and directly across the street without stopping to check for cars, there were kids riding in the middle of the street and even one child who crossed the street several yards from the crosswalk, bringing cars to a halt in the middle of the road. While I could tell the parents driving through the intersection where on high alert for crossing kids, they had a hard time seeing the bicycles speeding up from behind. And if someone unfamiliar with the kids’ tendency to fly right through the intersection were to drive up (especially someone in a hurry), there is great potential for a serious accident.

 

    Besides stop signs and painted crosswalks, there are no other traffic slowing measures in place at both intersections on Oakmond—not even a crosswalk sign. Even if a crossing guard can’t be placed at every intersection around the school, there are less expensive ways of bringing drivers’ attention to the kids streaming through the streets. In my opinion, crosswalk signs are a bare minimum for all crosswalks with heavy child-pedestrian traffic, and those fluorescent yellow ones would be even better. In Texas, where I learned to drive, reduced-speed school zones surrounded every school. Here in Utah, it seems that school zones are only used at crosswalks with crossing guards. Even if it reduced the speed limit by only 5 mph at the intersections immediately surrounding Daybreak Elementary, school zone signs with flashing lights would definitely heighten drivers’ attention to the kids who are going to cross in front of their car whether they yield or not.

 

    The wall above the main entrance to Daybreak Elementary reads, “Children First”. Let’s put our children first, put our children’s safety first, and prioritize our city’s spending to reflect it. Let’s not wait until a serious injury or, heaven forbid, a tragic death finally prompts us into taking our children’s safety seriously. In the words of Doree Strauss, Daybreak Elementary Principal, “We want to be proactive.”

 

More coming: In the next installment, find out the dangerous crosswalk situations at Eastlake Elementary and Early Light Academy!

Last update: 17-09-2009 08:09

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