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Getting kids to school may not be matter of in and out

Local school, city and law-enforcement officials have worked together to relieve traffic issues

Posted: August 9, 2014 10:13 p.m.
Updated: August 9, 2014 10:13 p.m.

This August 2012 file photo shows traffic heading for West Ranch High School on Valencia Blvd. on the first day of school in Stevenson Ranch.

It’s back-to-school time – time for parents and teen drivers to congregate at sometimes hard-to-get-to campuses, all at about the same time, creating mini-rush hours where summertime saw placidly flowing traffic.

“The hotspots are anywhere around schools,” California Highway Patrol Officer John Lutz advised.

And traffic violations go right along with the rush to get kids to school on time, said Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff Department Sgt. Richard Cohen. Common offenses among drivers during back-to-school time are double parking, speeding, lack of awareness of pedestrians, and driving dangerously around other cars.

“It’s just a big mess of traffic,” Pico Canyon Elementary School PTA President Marina Pelaez summed up the situation. “There’s people piled up and down the street trying to turn, kids are getting out where they shouldn’t, and there’s no manners whatsoever. How do you change it? How do you make it stop?”

Local school, Santa Clarita city and law-enforcement officials have put their heads together and launched several efforts to help relieve back-to-school traffic nightmares.

Many schools in the Santa Clarita Valley have adopted a “valet” program to help expedite the process of dropping off students.

“The Sheriff’s Department trains older students and adults to help younger students get out of their cars,” said Saugus Union School District Superintendent Joan Lucid. “It works.”

According to Santa Clarita Senior Traffic Engineer Ian Pari, the city’s traffic department has also established the “Safe Routes to School” program at several local elementary schools. Safe Routes to School is a state-funded project that encourages students to walk or bike to and from school while making the trip safer for them.

The goal is reached in two ways: improving infrastructure around schools – such as painting crosswalks more boldly, installing larger and fluorescent safety warning signs and installing fixtures to slow down traffic – and educating students on bike riding and safety.

At the same time, “Increasing individuals walking or biking helps to decrease traffic,” Pari said.

Many students in the high school and junior high levels use Santa Clarita Transit, the city’s bus system, to get to and from school. Santa Clarita Transit Manager Adrian Aguilar said the system has already launched its school schedule, modifying routes to meet school starting times, changes in traffic patterns and school boundaries. The busiest routes will have the maximum 60-foot buses, she said.

“Fortunately we have a good working relationship with the sheriff and school districts,” said Aguilar. “We work with them to handle any problem.”

Lutz said the Newhall CHP office offers a “Start Smart” program for newly licensed drivers and their parents. The program begins Aug. 19 and is free, he said.

“We teach proper procedures, statistics and any new laws in action,” he said. Those interested in the course can contact the CHP office at 661-294-5540.

The most frequent advice from Santa Clarita Valley officials for parents facing the back-to-school traffic crush: Start early, expect delays, and be patient.


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