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Distractions make drop-off and pickup dangerous outside Madison schools

MADISON (WKOW) — If you’re a parent used to driving your kids to and from school, you may be familiar with this scenario: speeding cars, crowded streets and kids crossing in the middle of the road, all while one crossing guard is attempting to stop another stream of cars.

Robert Egezi is the crossing guard for Chavez Elementary School and every morning he said he sees the same types of offenses. Everyday, Egezi said he sees cars crossing right in front of his stop sign putting himself and the children he’s protecting at risk.

“You don’t know if they’re gonna stop,” he said. “I’m like the sign says ‘Stop,’ so please stop cause like I don’t wanna get run over,” he said.

According to Madison’s crossing guard coordinator Patti Knoche, the law is simple. Cars are required to stop 10 feet from a crosswalk when a guard puts up their sign and must remain stopped.

“We don’t want people creeping forward because we don’t know what the driver is thinking. We want them to stay stopped until not only the children but the crossing guard are out of the street,” she said.

At every school, Knoche said the situation is different. Chavez Elementary sees a lot of speeders and drivers failing to stop for guards because it’s blocks away from any permanent stop signs.

According to Knoche, Madison guards issued 70 tickets and 129 warnings to drivers who failed to stop for guards last year. As of October, those numbers are up to 33 tickets and 105 warnings for 2019.

But tickets and warnings are not the only concern.

Egezi said he deals with a lot of parents pulling up to the curb, dropping their kids off and immediately pulling back into traffic to make an illegal U-turn.

“It’s so dangerous to do a U-turn in a school zone,” he said. “Cars will pull out. There’s been accidents where cars will pull out because they’re just not watching and they’re on their phones.”

Knoche said it’s not just the drivers they need to watch out for.

“The other thing we see a lot of is mid-block crossing,” she said. “Parents dropping their children off and instead of sending them down to the crossing guard or sending them to the intersection, they send them directly across the street crossing in the middle of the block.”

According to Knoche, that disrupts traffic, puts the kids at risk and it could cause problems later down the line.

“It’s about teaching kids good habits,” she said. “Teaching them to keep themselves safe when they’re young are habits they’re going to learn as teenagers and when they’re older.”

At schools like Emerson Elementary on the isthmus, guards and parents face different issues.

Rhonda Kisting said every afternoon, picking up her children there can be a challenge. She said the narrow, crowded streets fill up fast.

“We line up 20 minutes ahead of time so we can be the first row in and then out before the other guys come in,” she said.

Kisting said the guards and teachers do their best to make sure parents move through as quickly and safely as possible but she said it’s up to parents to do their part.

“We try not to double park because then kids try to run out in front of us and cross the street,” she said.

Without an easy fix, Knoche said that’s the best solution: drivers taking action and paying attention.

“There are things that can very easily distract us and we can go ‘Oh oops’ and we don’t want that ‘oops’ to be a child getting hurt,” she said. “But we have to be very diligent about paying attention, that’s where it starts.”

Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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