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Ask A Cop: How can we stop dangerous driving near schools?

TREAT(A Lake Oswego police officer answers readers’ questions each week in this space. To submit a question, call staff reporter Cliff Newell at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or send an email to cnewell@lakeoswegoreview.com.)

My younger son goes to an elementary school in Lake Oswego, and every day I see people driving like maniacs. They drive up the wrong side of the street, park in no-parking areas. They have children run across the street where there are no crossing guards so that they can meet them at their cars. This happens almost every day, right at the time when parents are trying to pick up kids. And we are talking about K-5 kids here. What can be done about this situation?

Thank you for your question and your concern. It is one that is echoed by hundreds of frustrated parents just like you, regarding all of the schools. Let me tell you about two issues regarding school zones that I cannot seem to overcome, and perhaps you can help.

The first issue is capacity. The roads we have are built to handle only so much traffic. Every day, when parents drop their kids off and pick them up at school, it combines with traffic already in the area to completely overwhelm the roadways —simply put, it’s more traffic than the roads are capable of handling. When this happens, you get the behaviors you mentioned above.

We have had police officers sit in school zones to deter this behavior, but — as is often the case with traffic stops on I-5 at rush hour — it completely gridlocks the streets and only compounds the problem.

This brings me to the second issue we cannot overcome: changing behaviors.  I and my fellow officers drive by countless buses with only five, 10 or 15 kids in them and hundreds of cars with only a parent and one child in them. We live in one of the safest communities in the state, but parents here do not seem to encourage their children to walk, ride a bike, ride the bus or carpool.

We cannot help ease congestion in this city if parents are not willing to do their part and utilize the bus system and carpool. You can’t complain about all of the cars and congestion when you’re actually part of the problem. My suggestion would be for parents to start a citywide campaign to utilize the system that is already in place.

Unfortunately, the police department does not have the resources to post an officer in every school zone throughout the city during the morning and afternoon, and you would need to talk to the school directly regarding crosswalk guards. But congestion — and the behaviors caused by it —are more than police issues. These are matters that require a cooperative effort between the school district and parents to change mindsets. 

— Lt. Doug Treat

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