MOUNT AIRY — A traffic survey has led the Town Council to all but rule out a crossing guard as the solution to residents' concerns about unsafe conditions near Mount Airy Elementary School.
Results of a traffic survey of North Main Street and Watersville Road near the school have council members looking for alternatives.
At the council's regular monthly meeting Monday, a county roads official delivered the results of a 96-hour study of intersection traffic. The news wasn't very encouraging.
Of the more than 1,800 carsthat traverse the intersection each day, about 1 percent obey the posted speed limit of 15 mph near the corner, said Jay R. Nave, of the county Bureau of Roads Operation. Motorists average 42 mph, Nave said.
The fact that 15 vehicles exceeded 70 mph during the 96 hours oftesting raised more than a few eyebrows among council members.
Even school buses are exceeding the speed limit near the intersection, Nave said.
"What you have here is not uncommon," he said. "People drive what they feel comfortable driving, what they feel safe driving."
The traffic study convinced council members that the hazard at the intersection lies more with speeding than with high traffic volume, a situation for which a crossing guard is a viable solution.
"The purpose of a crossing guard is not to slow people down. It's to look for openings in the traffic," said Councilman Marcum N. Nance. "What we have is a speeding problem. We've got to get the speeds down."
For years, residents of the nearby Friendly Acres neighborhood have pressed the council to take action to make the intersection safer.
Residents have urged that a crossing guard be posted, and some volunteered their services.
Last fall, the council agreed to provide a guard but suspended the program when concern over town liability arose.
The residents have lobbied for reinstatement of the crossing guard, but the council didn't agree that a guard is the answer.
Nave's report seemed to support that view, council members said.
Nance suggested turning to state troopers, who provide police protectionto Mount Airy through the Resident Trooper Program, for answers.
"If those of us who sit around this table can't come up with a solution, we need to turn to our experts," he said.
But Council President R. Delaine Hobbs disagreed, saying that it would be asking too muchto expect troopers to provide ongoing traffic control near the school.
"You can't set a trooper there all the time," Hobbs said.
The council eventually agreed to approach the troopers for advice.
In search of a solution Monday, the council resorted to a brainstorming session that resulted in a few unconventional suggestions.
For example, Nance proposed a technique used in other municipalities, in which a decommissioned police car with a dummy behind the wheel is parked permanently near a problem spot.
The maneuver can be an effective deterrent because a real officer occasionally occupies the car tokeep drivers off guard, Nance said.