School zone safety for drivers, pedestrians

Last Thursday, I sat and watched the traffic pattern in front of Soquel Elementary School on Porter Street at the request of Niels Kisling, a concerned parent, and Maria Parrish, the school's crossing guard and yard duty. They were alarmed at the bad driving practices of some motorists when Parrish is trying to get school children safely across Porter at West Walnut Street. Those habits include, speeding, driving through the crosswalk while people are still in it and talking or texting on their cell phones. The speed limit around schools when children are present is 25 mph; drivers should wait until pedestrians are on the curb or safely in the other lane or other side of the street before continuing on their way; and cell phone use while driving has been illegal for a few years now, unless there is an emergency. These rules are published in the California Driver Handbook, which is available at While out there Thursday, drivers behaved themselves, partly because the CHP had dispatched an officer to keep an eye on things, as well, after I alerted them of my next Street Smarts topic. Parrish calls the CHP often to complain about bad driver habits and estimates officers respond at least once a month, she said. “The CHP does come to hover, which helps drivers behave, but they are busy so their presence is limited,” she said. However, the crosswalk-users did something that raised my eyebrows and can be quite dangerous – children like to run across the street. One child was walking solo, saw Parrish start to enter the crosswalk, then bolted into the street before all the traffic had stopped. Parrish grabbed her before she got too far out into the street. In another incident, a mother was walking with a group of children and the youngsters ran across the street. This time, Parrish was firmly in the crosswalk with her big red and white stop sign held aloft and all vehicles were stopped. Still, it's safer to hold your child's hand and maintain eye contact with drivers to make sure they see you and your group and remain stopped. Caltrans transportation survey Caltrans may be contacting you to talk about your travel habits. The California Household Travel survey is hoped to help transportation planners improve access to jobs, air quality, and quality of life in each region of the state. The random survey aims to have 57,000 household respondents around the state. Some of them, if they choose to participate, will receive global positioning systems or on-board diagnostic devices to record their vehicle's every move. The endeavor is in partnership with the California Air Resources Board, the California Energy Commission and local transportation planning agencies. The survey will continue through February 2013. Learn more at
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