The City of Oakdale is home to six separate public schools within the city limits, with an additional two in our rural areas. For those wondering we have four elementary, one Junior and one Senior High school in our town of just over 20,000 people (recorded in the July 2011 Census). Our two rural schools are K-8 campuses.
Between these eight campuses there are varying and vast differences. Aesthetically they are different, logistically they are in varying locations and academically they even may vary a bit. There are, however, two commonalities between all eight campuses: children and bad drivers.
Now, before we start ranting about the driving skill of the 16- to 18-year-old driver, I feel it necessary to point out the worst offender - the ‘grown-ups.’
In last week’s column I alluded to the fact that I ‘felt this column’ coming on. Truth be told, I had hoped I could at least make it to October. Unfortunately, three short days after sending that column off to my editor I was reminded that the timing for the ‘drop-off’ column needs to be now.
Innocently cruising along the west end of F Street during the a.m. Kindergarten ending and the High School lunch period in full swing I was greeted by a mini-van in quite a hurry.
As this blue mini-van pulled onto F in front of me I quickly became aware of three things. It was pulling through a crosswalk as the crosswalk lights were flashing, driving at a speed much faster than the posted 25 and it belonged to a local day care. The latter part I was aware of only because the business name is emblazoned all over the van. This of course is great for publicity, but not if you are driving in a manner not befitting the law or safety.
This would be the place I feel it necessary to segue a bit and state the obvious. When you live in a small town eyes are everywhere. I try to remind myself of this often (especially when behind the wheel). Truth be told when you get in that bubble (aka your vehicle) we can tend to lose ourselves just a little.
Some of you may have witnessed my driving errors mid-apology. I’m that lady with large facial expressions and hands in the air, as I proclaim my ‘I’m sorry’ through the thick front windshield of my car. It happens. But the speeding part and disregarding crosswalks in the middle of the day, well in a town this size that just can’t happen. Sadly however it does and often. More children (and adults … often senior citizens) have been victim to the ‘Vehicle versus Pedestrian’ call.
If we could just find everyone to come to accept that between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday you just can’t be rushing with your vehicle through this town. Sometimes I think we need to just have the city invest in a bunch of those bright green plastic men with the flags they sell at Costco and plant them throughout the community.
Then there is also the ever popular ‘drop-off’ topic. This one has my mind going in so many directions, that I swear there is a bit of fusion happening between my ears. So this year, I will refrain (for now) on calling out a particular driver. Instead I thought perhaps a Drop-off Etiquette list might be helpful.
So here goes:
1. The part of the sidewalk painted yellow in front of the school (aka drop-off area), you know the one with the sign posted close by which reads “No parking between the hours of 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.”? There are no exemptions to that sign. No special pass. No special circumstances. Your car should not be turned off at any time when you enter this area.
2. The best and most effective way to treat the drop-off area (yellow sidewalk) is with the same urgency you enter a fast food or coffee shop drive through. You know, that place where you tap the steering wheel in frustration at how long it is taking for ‘fast food.’ Well, guess what, the person behind you at your child’s drop off is doing the same thing. This is not the time to review your plans for the day with your child, ask them if they have their lunch or homework or discuss sleepover plans for the weekend. That is conversation you should have had miles ago, during your drive.
3. Do not allow your children to slyly spill out of the car as you remain in the street (avoiding the yellow sidewalk crazies). I see you and your child, but my fear is the person in front of me pulling out may not.
4. The person who bravely walks into the middle of the street hosting a ‘Stop’ sign or flag in their hand, they do not have coated armor under their T-shirt or jacket. They are trusting you are looking and understand their purpose. And no, their purpose is not to stop traffic so that you may unload your child right in front of them in the street. Please proceed to the yellow crazy section.
5. If you are among the trusting, brave parents who drop your child away from the drop-off area, please equip them with education. Perhaps the best words you could offer them are these: Son/daughter, those people in those cars in the ‘yellow area,’ they’re all crazy. Think of it like a game of dodge ball or keep away as you get close. Stay alert, fast and proceed with caution ... always.
To summarize, if we all approached the drop-off area thinking back to our last pick-up or drop-off at a major airport in a brand new car, we might do better at it. In the end it boils down to two critical things - safety and efficiency. Eyes wide open and … go!
Teresa Hammond is circulation manager for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.