‘R’ is for red light

Back-to-school time can be hectic on the roads

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published September 4, 2013

ST. CLAIR SHORES — School has begun and there is one thing local police know for sure — September will bring some headaches.

“Especially the first month, during the transition period of getting back to school, traffic seems to be heavier, parents are trying to find the correct times for pickups and drop-offs,” said St. Clair Shores Community Resource Officer Kevin Kimm. “We have a lot of youngsters that are walking to and from school. They need to be more aware at crosswalks, (at) the stop signs, and this is why … safety patrols and our crossing guards are important to us in our city.”

School began Sept. 3 for much of the city and starts Sept. 4 for the remaining students. Eighteen crossing guards will be back on duty, according to Traffic Lt. Steve Lambert, and drivers who ignore their stop signs will pay the price.

The ticket for failing to stop for a school bus is a $170 civil infraction that will add three points to a driver’s license. The penalty is the same for failing to stop for a crossing guard, except that penalty is a misdemeanor.

“You have to stop for a crossing guard, especially if you’re in a vehicle and they come out to stop a car,” Lambert said. “I’ve got a violation list.”

He said bus drivers and crossing guards take down the license plate numbers of noncompliant drivers and turn them into the police; the registered owner of the vehicle is presumed to be the driver in that instance.

Lambert said they do give out tickets for those violations over the course of the school year.

“It’s generally, a lot of them is carelessness,” he said. “As far as the crossing guards, they’re clearly marked; they’re there for the safety of the kids.”

Kimm said that vehicles are not allowed to pass a bus once its stop sign comes out.

“When the bus is coming to a stop and obviously its red stop sign goes out … no vehicles are allowed to pass until that youngster is on or off the bus and that sign has come down from the bus,” he said.

Police implore parents to pay attention to the parking signs, as well, to keep drop-off and pick-up running smoothly. Kimm said that’s especially important for parents heading to a new school building this year.

“At our middle schools and our elementaries, they have designated areas,” Kimm said. “If everyone follows it accordingly, the process will move so much faster.”

Lambert said it’s not uncommon for the Traffic Bureau to receive a litany of complaints from neighbors surrounding the local schools in September because of parents blocking driveways, parking in residential driveways, clogging the streets and taking up business parking lots while waiting for their children.

“That’s always an issue, where business owners call us, complaining that parents are lining up waiting for their kids for a half-hour just to get the best parking spot and, meanwhile, squeezing out their patrons,” Lambert said. Those parents could receive tickets for parking where not intended.

Lambert said they would be sending out extra traffic officers in the morning and afternoon near schools in the city for the first few weeks of school to make sure children aren’t running wild and parents are observing and obeying traffic control signs. He recommends parents leave 15 minutes early the first month to make sure their children get to school on time, even with the added traffic.

“It’s a good system, if everybody observes the signs and does what they’re supposed to do,” he said.

The situation usually resolves itself within a few weeks, too, he said, explaining that by the middle or end of September, many parents start having their children walk to school.

But when they do, Kimm said, students also have to be cognizant of the rules of the road.

“You always have to have the assumption that it’s best that you look for the cars (because) the cars might not be looking for you,” he said. “That’s why its imperative, again, that they cross at the perspective crosswalk lights and not dart across.”