School Traffic

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The Problem

School-related traffic congestion and the risks such congestion poses to the safety of the students, teachers, parents, and residents, in and around schools is a significant problem in this community. The most obvious cause of traffic congestion around schools is vehicles, and the biggest source of those vehicles is simply the parents’ dropping off and picking up their children from school. In the United States, roughly three-quarters of school-aged children are taken to school by car.  As described below, an increase in children taken to school by car is just one contributing factor to the problem. Other factors include changes In School population, new school construction causing confusion or issues with residents that did not have any issues previously, and traffic signs and signals surrounding a school.

Traffic congestion alone causes inconvenience to drivers, leads to lost time from the job, and can contribute to “road rage.” In addition to affecting parent drivers and other commuters, school traffic congestion is a source of problems for students, school staff, residents in and around schools, and local police charged with enforcing traffic laws and responding to problems raised by residents and schools. More importantly, congestion can be a source of traffic crashes and child pedestrian injuries and deaths. Child pedestrian injuries due to traffic are more likely to occur in settings with high traffic volume and on-street parking, with children’s often emerging “masked” from behind parked cars. This is an issue in Schiller Park at all of the local schools.

Factors Contributing to Traffic Congestion Around Schools

While many factors contribute to the problem of school traffic congestion, the single greatest explanation for recent school traffic congestion is actually two fold, the growth of the school-aged population over a relatively short time, combined with the redesign of the drop-off and pick-up system at Kennedy School. Both factors have led to the issues being complained about around that School, and rendering original school drop-off and pick-up schemes (including guidelines for when and where parents may drop off, pick up, and park), street layouts, and traffic control measures ineffective in controlling congestion. I feel I can safely add that in my own experiences the conditions surrounding the Drop-off, and pick-up at Kennedy School is significantly better then it was at the start of this school year, and in my opinion even better then it was when the school used its original traffic pattern.

In general when asked, parents who choose to take their children by car cite distance, traffic hazards, time constraints, and bad weather as the most common reasons for selecting this transportation mode. Other input has suggested that both road safety and “stranger danger” are the key explanations for why parents are increasingly taking their children to school by car. One can view such threats to child safety as both a cause and a symptom of school congestion. On the one hand, parental concerns about traffic hazards could lead more parents to drive their children to school, thereby increasing congestion. On the other hand, traffic congestion could lead to more child pedestrian accidents, with backed up cars’ blocking the views of small children crossing the street to enter school.

Understanding Your Local Problem

The discussion above is only a generalized description of our school traffic congestion. You should use these basic facts to help develop a more specific understanding of your local problem. Analyzing the local problem carefully will help you design a more effective response, and help to open our minds to who is ultimately responsible for these issues, and who has gone above and beyond in their effort to assist in dealing with these issues.

Stakeholders

The following groups have an interest in the school traffic-congestion problem and should be considered for the contribution they might make to gathering information about the problem and responding to it.

Police

This was written more for the police, and the village, not only because they are the biggest stakeholders in solving these traffic congestion problems, but because they are often one of the first to be called when traffic congestion develops around our schools. The Police are more likely to be contacted only after tensions have developed among residents, school staff, and parents over who is responsible for the congestion. Police therefore are in a unique position to serve as mediator between these groups, helping them to seek common ground in developing and implementing effective solutions and ultimately making their jobs easier by reducing the number of calls for service generated by congestion, and traffic safety issues that often accompany it.

Parents

When it comes to both understanding the underlying source of the congestion problem and developing responses to it, parents may be the single most important stakeholder you identify. This is because parents’ decisions to drive their children to school, their concern for their children’s safety, and their regard for existing traffic rules can tremendously affect the problem. With the general courtesy and respect this portion of the issue seems to be very much under control.

Students

While research indicates that most school traffic problems occur around elementary and middle schools, Student input in these lower-grade schools is equally important, and can become critical if a response strategy includes encouraging children to walk or bike to school.

School Administrators and Teachers

School staff often experience the aggravation of school traffic congestion in equal measure to parents. Some staff, such as the principal and school administrators, bear the brunt of complaints by parents and local residents. Given that most congestion occurs in and around school property, the child safety concerns associated with traffic congestion become the school’s responsibility, as well. These are addressed regularly and seem to be of the highest priority to School District 81. No days have gone by that one or all of the administrators of Kennedy School are not assisting with the drop-off and pick-up process, and an army of teachers and staff at all points of the process.

Local Residents

Residents living near schools with congestion problems are very much affected by the problem, and may also be contributing to it In their own way. Imagine being late for work and pulling out of your driveway, only to realize that school traffic is at its peak and it will take another 10 minutes just to travel a tenth of a mile. Residents may become so frustrated by repeated complaints to the school or local police with no visible sign of resolution in sight, that they deliberately ignore signs, speed limits, or pedestrian traffic, further contributing to the congestion problem, and reduced safety.

Responses With Limited Effectiveness

Enhancing the enforcement of existing traffic laws. As with similar, more “reactive” police measures, such as increased patrols, enhanced enforcement of existing traffic laws is likely to have a positive but short-term impact on the problem if not maintained consistently. As soon as traffic enforcement reverts back to preintervention levels, congestion is likely to increase again. However, if patrols are assigned strategically to increase presence during peak arrival and departure periods, they may serve as a very useful and effective complement to other problem-solving measures.

Who’s responsibility is it to remedy this issue?

The answer Is simple to me. The general responsibility falls on all of us, in my opinion some of the responsible parties are already pulling their weight, but the rest of us need to step up.  I have sat and watched at all three of the public Schools since the beginning of the year, and the School District personnel are doing an outstanding job, with the District regularly implementing new technologies and procedures since the begging of the year. The parents actively participating in the process are also for the most part relatively appropriate and respectful during this process with the exception of a small few. They in reality have little choice in the matter, and have taken the changes in stride. The remaining stakeholders need to step up, the resididents around the Schools need to realize that everything that can be done by the Schools is being done, and constantly being improved by the Schools themselves. The remainder of this issue again in my opinion falls on the village, and possibly the police department.

Even though it is my feeling that the issues that most are complaining about are not actually issues at all, but simply a new inconvenience to their daily routine caused by the rerouted lines they are still complaints that need to be addressed, and still remains the normal speeders we see in Schiller Park, and the new ones created by the congestion itself who put our children and residents at risk, specifically at Kennedy School, but in reality all of Schiller Park

There is no consistent police presence at any of the schools during drop-off and pick-up, and it is putting everyone at risk daily. If we all stop blaming the people who are already doing all they can, and direct our energy and issues to those who still have much they can do maybe we will see some meaningful change.

Barbara Piltaver – Village President / Mayor
Phone: 847-671-8502          mayor@villageofschillerpark.com

Thomas Fragakis – Chief of Police
Phone: 847-678-4794         Tfragakis@schillerparkil.us

 

 

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