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Letter to Editor: Updates on School Crossing Safety

A letter in response to a grade school child being struck outside a Crystal Lake school.

This letter is intended to communicate the latest efforts to explore and implement ever-improving safety measures for the school children in our community, specifically with regards to the Crystal Lake Avenue crossing at Oak Hollow Road (). Please take a few minutes to read these updates.

Most or all of us are aware of the terrible incident that occurred recently, involving a vehicle striking a student in the crosswalk on her way to school.  Thankfully, the student is on her way to a complete recovery, but we can use this occurrence as an opportunity to further our awareness of and preparedness for safety concerns.

utilizes what is known as a 3’E’ approach, with the three E’s representing Engineering, Enforcement and Education. This comprehensive method, integrating the City, school district and community, has led to enhancements at this particular crossing: clearer signs regarding the new state law requiring drivers to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk, a flashing beacon alerting drivers to pedestrians in or near the crossing, advance signs warning drivers of the crosswalk they are approaching and a crossing guard to assist children across the street. This same approach is still being used today to monitor and, where possible, further promote safety.

ENGINEERING

City engineers recently welcomed me in a meeting to discuss ongoing measures.  While the enhancements made in the last year have increased safety, the City is interested in continuous improvement. Federal regulations preclude a red light or stop sign based on evaluations of the intersection, but the following actions are planned or already implemented:

  • As part of a 5-year plan, this crossing was being evaluated for a Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB), similar to that installed at the Three Oaks crossing of Main Street; this system remains dark until a pedestrian presses the pushbutton, at which time the RRFB emits rapid, alternating bursts of light to warn motorists of pedestrians in the roadway. Proven compliance rates of this device are the highest of any amber light warning system. The City is also investigating a sensor that will automatically activate the device just before pedestrians enter the crosswalk until just after they leave it. In light of the recent accident, this evaluation has been accelerated from a 5-year to a near-term plan instead.
  • In the interim, the flash pattern on the existing beacon will be altered to reduce any ‘immune effect’ that might result from a monotonous rhythm.
  • An in-street school crosswalk sign, similar to that in use on Woodstock Street just west of the municipal building, was ordered and is now in use during crossing time periods; this timing has been found to be the most effective utilization of these signs.
  • As already communicated by the school district, crossing guard hours have been extended to provide protection for those crossing for before-school activities.

ENFORCEMENT

The Crystal Lake Police Department participated to a significant degree in the evaluation of the crossing and subsequently worked with city engineers to develop the existing safety precautions. Additional works include the following:

  • Police Chief Dave Linder has already been meeting with District 47 Superintendent Mendoza to establish an awareness/education campaign to deliver to our students since they must be an integral part of the total safety solution.
  • A police presence in the crossing area helps raise driver awareness and alertness. Studies indicate that it is impractical to maintain an ever-present police force at a crossing such as this because it has a diminishing effect on motorists, but an intermittent presence can be more effective at keeping motorists on higher alert.

EDUCATION

Each of the three E’s in this approach to safety is critical to its success, but perhaps none more so than the education of everyone who plays a role in its execution.  As mentioned previously, an educational campaign is already being developed jointly by the police and school district, but we must take it upon ourselves to become better aware of the part we all play in promoting safety, and act accordingly:

  • The Fall 2011 City Newsletter communicates a reminder about driver responsibility with respect to pedestrians in crosswalks.
  • This letter is lengthy, and your patience is appreciated, but before closing it is imperative to provide some important statistical information about how calming or slowing traffic can save a life: consider the following...
  1. Pedestrians impacted by vehicles traveling 20 MPH are uninjured 30% of the time, injured 65% of the time, and killed 5 percent of the time;
  2. In 30 MPH impacts, the uninjured comprise just 5 percent of the statistics, while 50 percent are injured and 45 percent killed;
  3. Finally, 40 MPH impacts result in injury 15 percent of the time, but in death 85 percent of the time!

(http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/localgov/docs/saferoutes-toolkit-e.pdf)

Fall is one of the most dangerous seasons for pedestrians as darker and wetter days pose a greater hazard.

Safety tips, for pedestrians (excerpted from http://www.chilliwack.com/main/page.cfm?id=1361):

  • Make eye contact with drivers, so you know they see you and they know you see them.
  • Always be cautious and pay attention to traffic, as drivers may sometimes disobey traffic signals or not be able to stop because of weather conditions.
  • Look left, right and left again before stepping off the curb.
  • If you are walking at night or in poor weather, wear bright reflective clothing.
  • Watch for left turning and right turning vehicles.
  • Never Jaywalk.
  • Stop at the curb or road edge and cross when the street is clear.

Safety tips, for drivers (also excerpted from http://www.chilliwack.com/main/page.cfm?id=1361):

  • Always yield to pedestrians.
  • Be aware of pedestrians who appear indecisive or inattentive.
  • Be alert of vehicles stopped in the lane next to yours; they may be yielding for a pedestrian.
  • Always be alert for pedestrians, especially at intersections.

Talk with your children about their safety! Know that their perspective and actions in and around intersections are different than yours. This URL takes you to 'How Children See Traffic,' a helpful site that illustrates these differences: www.bhsi.org/children.pdf.

Please support these efforts as the City, the Police, the School District, and the Community join forces for the safety and betterment of our children.  The attachments include additional information that you may find useful.  Feel free to forward this message to anyone who may benefit from it, and thank you very much for your attention.

Andrea and Bob Tuszynski

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