My Turn: Loop Road is a daily recipe for disaster

Posted: Sunday, October 26, 2003

A delightful, bright 10-year-old child and a respected, responsible driver were the victims of a tragic accident last Monday. Unfortunately, the recipe for disaster will continue to exist each and every school morning along Mendenhall Loop Road, as it has for several years.

Between 7:15 and 8:30 on school day mornings Mendenhall Loop Road is the mixing bowl for an extremely high risk recipe: the heaviest volume of traffic of the day, the largest concentration of elementary and middle school age children of the day crossing the road, and twilight or darkness enveloping the scene.

The potential for tragedy is truly increased exponentially when one considers that the most dangerous and life-threatening activity of our children's day has become routine for both them and the drivers in this mixing bowl. After successfully crossing a road 200 times, it is normal for our students to not be overly concerned about the 201st crossing. After driving a car for many years, it is normal for our drivers to have the day's work and activities on their minds as they make their way along Mendenhall Loop Road.

In addition to the above and most unfortunate, all of us who have served crosswalk duty at Floyd Dryden Middle School during this time period can readily confirm that not every driver is as responsible and considerate as the driver involved in Monday's accident. I frequently have to request that police monitor the traffic as it passes through the Floyd Dryden school zone as a deterrent for those who willfully jeopardize the safety of our children and crossing guards.

It is difficult to find some good in the loss of a young life and the memory a driver will struggle to handle, but we owe it to our children, drivers, parents and community to learn from this sadness. To minimize the risk for another loss of a young life in our Valley community, we must commit to contribute as individuals each school day morning.

Please do not let a student leave home in the morning without first being reminded that crossing Mendenhall Loop Road is a serious, life-threatening activity. Enhance our children's safety by having them wear a light-colored or bright-colored coat with reflective material during the dark winter walk to school, and insist they wear a helmet if they bike to school. As you drive to work in the morning, stay focused on our children and the daily, second-by-second potential for tragedy.

Educators should frequently remind our students of the routine danger they face, revisit safety precautions for crossing Mendenhall Loop Road, and review safe bike riding habits. Community leaders and government agencies should study the combination of ingredients in this morning mixing bowl and seek ways to decrease the danger.

In Skyler's memory, let's all dedicate ourselves to minimize the potential for Mendenhall Loop Road's daily recipe for disaster to strike another child, driver, family, and school.

• Tom Milliron is principal of Floyd Dryden Middle School in the Mendenhall Valley.

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