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Feb. 5, 2010

Reaching the limit

by Jialin Quinlan, Page Editor
Imagine, 3,000 students milling about on a campus surrounded by two major roads. The cars whiz by at high speeds, as jaywalking students dodge their trajectories. Sound familiar? This is the situation that Blazers are faced with on a daily basis.

For Blazers, going to school with hundreds of newly licensed drivers a year, surrounded by University Boulevard and Colesville Road, automatically puts us in peril. But the daily danger could lessen with a reduced speed limit on the roads around Blair.

According to Donna Vlasak, a member of the National Transportation Research Board and part of the Pedestrian Safety Committee for the PTSA, a team made up of engineers and planners have descended upon the Woodmoor area to assess the situation. They have compiled a report that will include all potential changes to make the area safer for pedestrians, from the signage around Blair to the timing of the countdown clocks at the crosswalks and will send their report to state officials at the Department of Transportation.

Reducing the speed limit would reduce the risk of students being involved in car accidents. According to PTSA President Pete Lafen, most cars traveling on University Boulevard at 40 miles per hour or above are well over speeds correlated with high pedestrian fatality rates. At full speeds, Lafen said, the cars surpass the speed limit, racing along at speeds of 55 or even 60 mph.

A lower speed limit would also help encourage safer driving habits, especially for students learning to drive around Blair. Slower speeds give a driver more time to react to anything unusual, such as being unexpectedly cut off or, even more frequently, a pedestrian dash across the street in front of oncoming cars.

A vast majority of Blazers make a habit of jaywalking, something that causes a lot of concern for drivers, according to Lafen. According to Lafen, other options could be considered, such as adding texture or grooving to the crosswalks, similar to that found on the sides of roads to warn drivers that they are too close to the edge.

Such measures can help drivers become more aware of the crosswalks and then become more alert when approaching the crosswalks, which could greatly increase pedestrian safety.

Blair would do well to adopt the methods of other schools who have taken action to keep the area surrounding their school safe. At Thomas S. Wootton, speed cameras were set up around the school to keep drivers in line, and the number of speeding citations issued dropped from 1,678 a month to under 700 a month.

Past records of accidents on the roads that surround Blair make clear the dire need for stritrt driving standards. In 2007, a Blazer was hit only 20 feet from a crosswalk.

Several measures could have prevented such tragedies, including better awareness and a lower speed limit. We must make the area around Blair a little safer. We cannot sacrifice the safety of our community for the convenience of drivers.



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