Traffic fears in Glenwood Howard County: Engineering study, safe track record should ease parents' worries.

November 05, 1997

PARENTS VEST an awful lot of trust in bus drivers, highway engineers and school administrators when sending off children on yellow buses. All of these workers are supposed to exercise great caution in getting children to and from school. Last Friday's accident that killed a school bus driver in Easton reminds us of the enormity of that responsibility.

But the safest approach is not always so obvious. In western Howard County's Glenwood area, parents want lower traffic speed limits and flashing lights on busy Route 97. State transportation officials, meanwhile, say such safeguards could cause accidents rather than prevent them.

The stretch in dispute is the segment of Route 97 alongside Bushy Park Elementary and Glenwood Middle. Parents are afraid that speed and traffic volume have become so great that entering the schools or the roadway is dangerous for bus drivers.

Unlike some states, Maryland has no laws limiting traffic to 25 miles per hour or lower during the hours of school arrival and dismissal. So cars, trucks and buses speed past the two schools at 45 mph -- legally. Many drivers disobey the limit and go even faster.

Bushy Park and Glenwood parents prefer a 25-mph limit near the schools. Better yet, they say, would be flashing lights to temper speeds, which they believe would be especially beneficial during inclement weather.

However, only minor accidents have occurred near the schools since Glenwood Middle opened in 1967. Also, both schools are set back a considerable distance from the road to provide a safe buffer for pedestrians at the schools.

County police and school administrators are right to defer to highway engineers when it comes to regulating traffic. John Concannon, assistant district engineer for the State Highway Administration, says lower speed limits, flashing lights and stop signals could cause more accidents by distracting drivers. A complicated SHA formula recommends that no traffic devices be used, although engineers would be wise to conduct periodic studies.

Meanwhile, the safest moves are for police to be vigilant with traffic violators and for school bus drivers to exercise the kind of caution that every parent expects.

Pub Date: 11/05/97

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