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Dealing with school zone traffic scofflaws
In recent weeks, Street Smarts received two emails from adults concerned about the things they see drivers do around schools during morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up. While playing child chauffeur last month to help out a friend, Kelly Newman was aghast at the things drivers were doing in front Mission Hill Middle School, at 425 King St. in Santa Cruz. Vehicles sat in 3-minute waiting zones in excess of 20 minutes. Others parked in red zones and/or “zoomed” through the crosswalks as kids waited to cross. “Parents who were illegally parking in the waiting zone forced the School Bus #15 to not have anywhere to pull in to pick up special needs children,” Newman wrote. “The school bus driver had to also park illegally, blocking a private resident's driveway to pick up the kids.” In Soquel, parent Niels Kisling praised the CHP, specifically the efforts of officer Sam Courtney, for putting crosswalk violators on notice along Porter Avenue in front of Soquel Elementary School. “Even after the CHP dedicated resources to us, people continue to blow through our crossing and get ticketed as a result,” Kisling wrote. While Newman's email claimed school officials weren't doing enough to protect children, Kisling got it right: motorists need to acquaint themselves with the concept of courtesy and obeying the law. Courtney has pulled over crosswalk violators who were unlicensed, which lead to their car being impounded, he said. He also has cited drivers for cell phone and texting violations, as well as speed and bocking the crosswalk in congested traffic. Last week, “a woman applying makeup ran the crosswalk”rolled through the crosswalk while Maria Parrish, school crossing guard, stood in the middle of the crosswalk with her stop sign erected, Courtney recalled. Meanwhile, Mission Hill officials and Santa Cruz police are doing all they can to ensure childrens' safety there, said Gary Bloom, Santa Cruz City Schools superintendent. “The school is in ongoing communication with SCPD regarding parking and traffic violations in front of the school, and SCPD patrols the area regularly at dismissal times,” he explained while noting that staff monitor the goings on outside the school. “The city has investigated the possibility of placing a cross walk directly in front of the school and has determined that this is not a good solution to the problems that do occur there. There has been no violation of federal law in relation to traffic issues or special education at Mission Hill.” Until driver behavior changes, schools and police will have to stay vigilant, said ChrisCochran, California Office of Traffic Safety spokesman. “There are those who will naturally do the right thing because they realize it is the right thing from the beginning,” he said. “There are those who will do the right thing once they have been made aware that their actions have negative consequences. “Then there are those who can be told what the right thing is, why it is right, why not doing it is wrong/dangerous/anti-social or even illegal, and they will continue to do it,” Cochran continued. “They are the 'special' people who think their circumstances are more important than everyone else's, that their actions won't really hurt anything, and that we are imposing on them. They are the ones who won't change their behaviors until they are contacted or cited by law enforcement or other officials that they can't ignore.”
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