Avoid another tragedy

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, December 26, 2003

I noted with interest Tony Carroll's article of Dec. 22 entitled "Glacier Valley still needs crossing guards." As a valley commuter and a parent, my heart went out to the family and friends of Skyler Lee Kim following the tragic accident on the morning of Oct. 20, 2003. I was amazed at how quickly the community reacted by creating an additional school zone on Mendenhall Loop Road near Stephen Richards Drive. I am concerned, however, that the times when the school zone warning lights are active often don't reflect the periods of greatest student activity.

I often drive by Floyd Dryden Middle School when there are numerous children present but no flashing lights, or flashing lights but no children within 200 yards. The fatal October accident near Glacier Valley Elementary School occurred close to 7:15 a.m., while the new school zone is not "active" until 7:30 a.m. So the new school zone would not likely have averted disaster if it were present a few months ago because the time of the accident did not occur during the predicted time of greatest risk.

The push for added crossing guards is commendable, but it only helps those children when following the predicted pattern. Children are unpredictable and Juneau's drivers are perhaps more unpredictable.

I think the post-tragedy flower memorial at the intersection did more to improve my long-term vigilance than any school zone sign. As I passed the memorial each day, it forced me to think about the potential horrible consequences of letting down my guard behind the wheel. My hope is that is was also a wake-up call to the thousands of others who drove past.

It's not good enough to just drive by the rules - you need to anticipate the unexpected in order to be a defensive driver - something I wish they'd teach all prospective drivers in our schools. The next time you have a close call behind the wheel, let it serve as a reminder against driver complacency, even if (and especially if) "the other guy" was at fault. Learn to anticipate and avoid "the other guy's mistake," rather than learn from your own. Perhaps a permanent memorial near the Glacier Valley school crossing, visible to all who drive by, would serve as constant reminder to vigilance.

Wendall Bishop


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