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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pedestrian Accident: Letter To Town Officials from TFoTM

The following is an email sent this morning to town officials.

Mayor & Council Members,

    This morning's accident in front of Edison Intermediate School should be a "wake-up" call to everyone that pedestrian safety is paramount, especially when considering the safety of our school aged children.

    Several weeks ago I contacted the Westfield Police Department's Traffic Safety Bureau after another near accident occurred at the intersection of Westfield Ave & Dorian Rd.
    As I was riding a bicycle south on Westfield Ave. at approximately 3 pm and approaching the intersection, I saw that the crossing guard was standing in the crosswalk on the north side of the intersection with his back to me and was crossing pedestrians. I slowed down as I got closer to the intersection.
    After all the students/pedestrians had crossed in all directions, the crossing guard remained in the street and began waving vehicles stopped at the stop signs on Dorian and on the opposite side (Park St) through the stop signs.  I had the right of way at this point and continued south on Westfield Ave.
    As I crossed Dorian Rd, a vehicle in the line of traffic that the crossing guard was waving through the stop signs controlling the intersection, missed hitting me by less than 3 feet. If not for my defensive action and response, I would have been struck.  I yelled out to the driver that they had to stop at the STOP sign at which point the crossing guard, a retired fireman, yelled back at me "Watch where you're going, can't you see I'm directing traffic!"
    Clearly he wasn't crossing any pedestrians by his own admission because if so, they would have been struck by the vehicles he was directing through the STOP signs.
    When I returned home, I placed a call to Sgt. McErlean of the police department's traffic safety bureau. This is not the first time I have brought the issue up of civilian crossing guards directing traffic at school intersections to his attention.  The need to alleviate traffic jams at these intersections does not justify civilian crossing guards to stand in the street and direct vehicle traffic and it is clearly spelled out in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) on what they can and can't do. If they have been authorized by town officials to direct vehicular traffic, please provide me the name of the person(s) giving them authorization.
    As has been his response in the past, Sgt. McErlean stated he would pass my complaint up the chain of command.  I have never received a response.
    Approximately a week later, as I was driving my vehicle east on Clifton St. and was slowing to stop at the intersection of Clifton & Boulevard, the crossing guard was in the middle of the intersection after crossing students walking north. As I approached the intersection and had not yet come to a complete stop at the STOP sign, the crossing guard was standing in the street waving me through the intersection. I ignored his hand direction to proceed as I know that he, as a civilian crossing guard, is not authorized to direct traffic through a STOP sign.
    After stopping at the STOP sign and looking both left and right, observing that the intersection was clear, I started to proceed when all of a sudden the crossing guard stepped in front of my car, held up his hand held STOP sign, and waved the vehicle on the other side of the intersection being controlled by a STOP sign also, to make a left turn in front me. There were no children waiting to cross and there was not one child within 100 feet of the intersection.
    I rolled down my window and advised the crossing guard he was not supposed to be directing traffic. After removing the lollipop from his mouth he stated "I was only trying to help you out."  I told him "That's what the STOP signs are supposed to do, not crossing guards."
    Not more than a few days later as I was traveling north on Westfield Ave approaching the intersection of Washington St., I stopped behind another vehicle that was stopped for the crossing guard holding up her hand held STOP sign; she was crossing children. After all the children had safely crossed the street, the crossing guard remained in the intersection and began to wave cars through the STOP sign controlling traffic heading eastbound on Washington.  I counted ten vehicles that disregarded the STOP sign and followed the crossing guards direction. As a vehicle traveling south on Westfield Ave approached the intersection coming dangerously close to "t-boning" one of the cars the crossing guard was waving through the STOP sign, she put down her own hand held STOP sign and exited the roadway, returning to the curb.
    These incidents have been occurring all to often and it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed.
    I have brought this to the  police department's attention numerous times and have not gotten any response.
    I also brought it to the attention of Gordon Meth, your traffic safety consulting engineer, after a public parking/traffic safety forum at WHS in 2011.  His response was that the crossing guards are not supposed to direct traffic and that it was a topic for another day.  That day has come and gone.
    I have also brought this issue to the public forum at a town council meeting in the past and have not gotten a response.
    I thank the council member that did respond to me via email last year when I brought the issue up in an email to them and they said they would look into it.
    An email sent to parents, by the Edison Intermediate School shortly after this morning's accident, indicates that sun glare may have been a contributing factor in this morning's accident. I hope that is the case and not another civilian crossing guard directing traffic.
    It is the intersection of Rahway Ave and Grove St, that was the center of my initial complaint (about crossing guards directing traffic) to town officials when I advised the police department that the practice of civilian crossing guards directing traffic had to stop after I was nearly hit by another vehicle.
    I have not received any response from the police department nor have I seen any indication that the practice of civilian crossing guards directing traffic has been stopped or even addressed.
    I appreciate the job our school crossing guards do, however that job is to cross pedestrians, not stand in the roadway and direct traffic after their job is done.
    I await your response to this traffic/pedestrian safety issue.


  1. The crossing guard at Edison does a wonderful job crossing children but I do agree that he should not be telling cars when to go. I myself have witnessed confusion amongst drivers when he stands in the middle of Rahway Avenue and plays traffic cop. Sometimes traffic flows beautifully with him telling cars when to go and other times it has been a circus with children stepping into the crosswalk while he has cars making left and right turns from Grove St.

  2. Sounds like drivers education for parents is needed. Why should't a crossing guard be able to stop traffic to let kids cross the street? It ain't rocker science.

    1. Good question. Maybe if the crossing guard had waited for the traffic to stop before crossing the children, an accident could have been avoided. Playing a game of "chicken" with crossing children is not the norm. This crossing guard does a fine job when not directing traffic. Guesstimating that he had enough time to cross the children before an oncoming car reached the crosswalk is dangerous.