School is starting – know the laws governing crossings, school speed zones and yielding the right of way

Photo by Kevin Brown, DeForest Times-Tribune Managing Editor
Photo by Kevin Brown, DeForest Times-Tribune Managing Editor

by Chief Robert Henze, DeForest Police Department
Published in “Community Voices,” DeForest Times-Tribune

August 26, 2013

We need your help!  School will be starting very soon, and as a result, children will be walking and biking to school.  Pedestrians, bicyclists and operators of motor vehicles need to understand and comply with the laws governing crossings, school speed zones and yielding the right of way.

The Village of DeForest has installed new flashing lights at the intersection of Jefferson Street and Southbound Drive to assist pedestrians with crossing Jefferson Street.  These lights are activated by a pedestrian intending to cross the street.  These lights were purchased by the village as a continuous demonstration of support for the Safe Routes to School Plan for our children and the community. Chief Robert Henze states the purpose of the lights is to provide the children and pedestrians a safe way to cross this intersection.  “We have become one of many communities who view this technology as a safe and healthy investment for our children and residents. This is one of several intersections within the village school zones where there is a high density of vehicles and children in the mornings and afternoons”.  Henze states he will be at this intersection both times of the day for the first week of school to educate the kids on how this system works.  Once the button is pushed, the children must look both ways and wait until the vehicles have stopped before proceeding to cross the intersection. According to law, motorist are required to yield and stop for pedestrians when they are in a marked crosswalk. They are not required to stop if the pedestrian is standing on the curb. However, Henze is asking motorists to be courtesy and stop when they see a pedestrian standing on the curb.  Henze has worked with the Public Works Director and Traffic Engineer and created a master plan proposing future pedestrian light locations.

We can have another safe school year if everyone pays attention and consciously makes an effort to; reduce their speeds, yield to pedestrians especially at crosswalks, pedestrians to use

Photo by Kevin Brown, DeForest Times-Tribune Managing Editor
Photo by Kevin Brown, DeForest Times-Tribune Managing Editor

sidewalks whenever possible and bicyclists to ride with traffic.

All of the school zones have reduced speed for the purpose of reducing vehicle speeds during peak school times and other times when these areas have a high concentration of children.  Traveling these speeds will help to provide a safe environment for our children to reach their destination safely and enable the driver to react timely to an unexpected event.  Exceeding the reduced posted speed limit is not only dangerous, but expensive with substantial increases in fines if cited.   Allowing enough time is one way to ensure voluntary compliance.

There are two crossing guards that cover the morning and afternoon school times.  One guard is at E. Holum Street and S. Cleveland and the other is at Jefferson Street and S. Cleveland Street.  There are many other intersections that children need to cross but have no adult supervision.   As an example, the children that walk to the Eagle Point Elementary school have a number of unsupervised intersections to cross.  When you see these children at these crosswalks, please help them out by stopping and allowing them to cross.

We see this on a daily basis, residents of all ages walking in the street when there are sidewalks provided to walk on.  When sidewalks are not an option the pedestrians are to walk to the left side of the roadway and upon meeting a vehicle shall move to the extreme outer limit of the traveled portion.  The street widths in the village vary.  We have received a number of complaints from concerned motorists when pedestrians walking two or more abreast in the roadway who do not separate allowing safe passage of motor vehicles.  The operator of a motor vehicle should not have to leave their traveled lane for pedestrians who choose not to simply move.

Bicyclists need to be traveling with the flow of traffic and as close to the edge of the curb as practical.  They are subject to the same rules of the road as motor vehicles for turning, stopping, and signaling.

First Student of DeForest provides a wonderful service to the students of our school district.  Each year we receive reports from their driver’s about motorists who fail to yield to them while they are loading or unloading passengers.  It is important that while driving a vehicle during school times that we stay alert and help maintain a safe environment for their passengers.  The bus drivers have been educated on alerting other drivers when a stop will be made by activating their red lights approximately 100 feet before the stop. Be aware that if a school bus is stopped with their lights on and stop arm out that you cannot pass them.  Please be patient and allow sufficient time for the passengers of the bus to enter/exit safely.  Failure to do so can result in a $240 citation.

I know that traffic safety is a major concern of our residents.  We have invested greatly in new sidewalks, signs, and place school traffic enforcement and police presence as a top priority of our department to help ensure all children are safe.  We ask that more children walk or bike to school to reduce the number of vehicles around our schools who are dropping or picking up kids.  If you must drive kids to school, can you carpool with neighbors to reduce the number of vehicles?  Can you drop off your kids off near the school versus right at the door?   We are utilizing the resources available to us to the best of our capability but we cannot accomplish the goal we would like to see without your help!

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