Monday, December 08, 2008

Why did the parent cross the road?

Do you drop your child off at school? Let me ask you something: When you're driving through the school parking lot, do you drive fast? If you see a kid trying to cross in front of you, do you slow down or speed up? Because seriously, the parents who drop off kids at the high school next door to us seem to be thinking about nothing but speeding their cherub to the front door, and if they have to mow down a few classmates to do it, that's just the way it goes.

I've always driven my kids to school before this, and I think I've been fairly respectful of young pedestrians (though not always of crossing guards, one of whom seemed to time his trips to eliminate any hope of a left turn at a busy intersection). Now that my kids are walking to school, though, I'm noticing what an unsafe situation it is, even in these days when everybody's talking big about Child Obesity and Global Warming and The Tragedy of Kids No Longer Walking to School.

For my kids, the problem is the main speedway passage through the high-school parking lot, which they have to cross to get from the side where our house is to the side where the buildings are. They don't have to cross a public street, just that parking-lot lane. There's a sidewalk that goes around our corner and ends at a natural spot for a crosswalk ... but no lines, no signs, no indication that kids will be making their way across the asphalt. And no slowing down from motorists, either.

I'm not expecting them to put out a crossing guard to hold the hands of teenagers as they make their way to school. But a crosswalk would both show kids one safe place to cross -- rather than darting randomly through traffic, as they do now -- and show parents, at least theoretically, that here's a spot where they need to slow down.

As it is, I have to walk my son to school, because no way could I trust him to not cross unsafely (or, for that matter, stop in the middle of the roadway to look at an interesting rock). On my way home today, I saw the high-school principal standing outside without armed guards or anything, and went up to make my case about a crosswalk. He listened for a few minutes, then gave me that "Parent, you have overstated your case" eye-glaze that professionals get, so who knows if it will do any good.

But if you drive your kid to school, next time you're driving through a school parking lot, slow the heck down, wouldja? Some of us are trying to cross here.

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