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Safety concerns with school drop-off and pickup

Editorís note: We are resuming the education series, started last year, for the 2015-2026 school year. This is the first article in the new series, and we will follow up with this issue after school has been in session a couple of months.According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 4,735 pedestrian fatalities across the nation in 2013; 236 were children. Twenty-one percent of pedestrians involved in traffic accidents resulting in death were children.The NHTSA reported that about 66,000 pedestrians were injured as a result of traffic-related accidents in 2013; 15 percent of the pedestrians were children.The highest percentage (35 percent) of child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 6 p.m. and 8:59 p.m.; the second-highest (26 percent) occurred between 3 p.m. and 5:59 p.m.Dave Watson, Falcon School District 49 safety and security director, said he knows the statistics, and the district is doing everything possible to provide a safe environment for students and staff during the high-traffic morning drop-off and afternoon pickup times.ìDistrict 49 continues to be one of the fastest growing districts in Colorado,î Watson said. ìWe are an extension and integral component of the community. As a community, we have chosen not to invest in new school construction since 2005. Congestion continues to become a more significant issue at more and more of our campuses. As we continue to grow without new facilities, increased traffic in and out of our existing school parking lots is to be expected.îAmy Sanders, a D 49 parent, said she has personally witnessed car accidents because there were too many people on the street, and others were not paying attention. Drop-off congestion is bad, but pickup issues are worse, she said. ìThere are people driving around other cars on the wrong side of the street, and then you have kids getting out of school on top of that,î Sanders said. ìI have seen people enter in through the exit in order to gain parking access, because they could not otherwise. It is just mayhem.îDistrict staff and administration realize that people are often rushing to get home or elsewhere, but traffic laws need to be followed, Watson said. And a little bit of patience can go a long way to maintain the safety of the students on and around school property.Watson provided some tips to help the school district keep students safe.

  • Be patient when traveling on or around school campuses.
  • When driving in neighborhoods around the schools, use caution and watch for children walking or biking to school.
  • Slow down and expect children to be walking or bicycling in the streets, especially in areas without sidewalks.
  • Remember that children have a difficult time estimating the speed of a vehicle, and they might misjudge when it is safe to cross the street.
  • Learn and obey school bus laws in Colorado; do not pass the school bus when the arm on the bus is down; do not follow too closely behind a school bus.
  • Abide by and follow all D 49 traffic rules, and follow teacher and staff instructions regarding the flow of traffic.
ìSome things are out of our control, though,î Watson said. ìThe public roadway is not under the control of the school district. That is a public law enforcement issue. There is not much we as a district can do; we are hindered by some of the locations of our schools.îSanders said a huge problem she has noticed is that some schools use the parking lots as drop-off/pickup lanes as well. ìMy biggest concern is the people not being able to get in and out of parking spots because there are people parked back-to-back in a line behind them, waiting for their kids,î she said. ìThere are some children that have to be physically picked up, and their parents have to park. It is not always an option to drive up and have them hop in. But when you have to park to get them and then you cannot get in and out, it is a problem.îWatson said he will continue to study the congestion issues at the schools to evaluate the problems and find ways to fix them.One idea used at various times throughout the school year employs a Colorado Springs Police Department presence to discourage dangerous behavior, Watson said. Sanders said she agreed: ìThe teachers really have no authority over speeding or double-parking, especially if it is on the street. If the parents choose to ignore the teachers, there are no repercussions for their actions.îWatson said the district is ramping up their efforts this school year to coordinate with the community, law enforcement and the Colorado Department of Transportation to focus on ideas to alleviate congestion issues.

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