Safety of students crossing Tamar Drive is under scrutiny EAST COLUMBIA

February 09, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

County engineers are studying the design of Tamar Drive, traffic volume and speed in response to parents' concerns that the road is unsafe for children to cross unassisted near Jeffers Hill Elementary School.

The county Traffic Engineering Division expects to complete its evaluation of Tamar Drive and recommend changes that could help slow traffic, said C. Edward Walter, division chief.

The traffic division must make a recommendation to the county Police Department before an additional crossing guard could be hired.

About 20 Jeffers Hill safety patrol members were helping other students cross Tamar Drive at several points and other streets near the school until the county Board of Education ordered that practice stopped as of Feb. 1.

"The Police Department, the traffic office and the school transportation office agreed that we should bring that to a stop," said Robert Lazarewicz, director of operations for county schools.

Mr. Lazarewicz said that, although the school board hasn't had a firm policy on the matter, safety patrol duties should not extend to assisting other students across streets off school property.

The majority of Jeffers Hill's roughly 400 students walk to school, said Jackie Palmer, president of the school's PTA.

"If you're saying children from this area should walk, what is the school system going to do to ensure their safety?" she asked.

The Jeffers Hill PTA wants a crossing guard at the intersection of Old Montgomery Road and Tamar Drive. A crossing guard is now stationed at Tamar Drive and Major's Lane.

Traffic patterns have become more dangerous for pedestrians in the last year since the county widened Tamar Drive to two lanes heading south from Route 175 and added a right-turn-only lane for those wishing to enter Old Montgomery Road, said parents. Motorists often exceed the speed limit, they said.

"Cars come zooming through. They don't care that there's a school there, they don't have to stop," said Ms. Palmer. "We want an additional crossing guard to help children get across, especially since there aren't safety patrols farther down [Tamar Drive] to help."

The school's PTA called an "emergency" meeting with county public works, police and education officials Jan. 26 and members testified about their concerns at a Jan. 28 school board meeting.

Police have increased radar patrols of Tamar Drive since Jan. 27 during school arrival and dismissal times, said Lt. Wayne Livesay, special operations commander. Most motorists stopped for speeding in the 25 mph and 30 mph zone have been Jeffers Hill neighborhood residents, he said.

School administrators suggested that parents help the children cross, said Ms. Palmer. But she said that not enough parents are available, while some are concerned about liability.

County Councilman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, has written a letter to Police Chief James Robey expressing concern about the situation.

Patti Lutz, whose daughter, Jennifer, is a fifth-grader at Jeffers Hill, said she wants to have a four-way stop, or at least a flashing light, established at Old Montgomery Road and Tamar Drive. Now, only motorists on Old Montgomery Road have stop signs.

"Even a crossing guard is still too dangerous," she said.

While the study is being conducted, the county traffic division and police have requested Jeffers Hill administrators to have children cross Tamar Drive at Campfire, a block south from a more dangerous crossing at Granite Knoll.

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