Remember the game Frogger? A tiny frog weaves in between cars to get across the road safely. In real life, it's no game.
Down the road from West Middle School, students by the dozen head toward the intersection of North Rockton Avenue and Auburn Street. At 4:00 pm it's busy to say the least. But it doesn't seem to phase the students.
One girl walks across Auburn while oncoming traffic has the green light. She spends more than 20 seconds in the intersection with cars flying by her, even a school bus.
Other children skip the crosswalk entirely and weave in-between cars on the street. 13 News showed video of it to Rockford Schools Transportation Director Gregg Wilson. He said the issue is concerning.
"We need to let the parents see these videos and see what their children are doing and maybe they'll take a stand," said Wilson.
So that's what we did. We posted a 30 second clip online for parents and others to see for themselves. Within minutes, dozens of people sounded off.
Comments on Facebook ranged from suggestions of having police enforce the area, to employing a crossing guard. A crossing guard sounds like a simple enough solution. But Rockford's Traffic Engineer Jeremy Carter says it's not a plausible one.
"The traffic signal acts as the crossing guard. They push the button, they're given an appropriate length of time to cross the intersection," said Carter.
Carter says the Rockton and Auburn intersection doesn't qualify for crossing guards. It's too far away from West Middle School to warrant one. Not only that, crossing guards are only required for elementary school aged children, not middle and high schoolers. And yes, even high schoolers dodge danger on a regular basis. Our cameras caught several students outside Auburn High School, dodging traffic across Auburn St. Cars in that area often travel at 45 miles an hour or faster. But Auburn High has school zone signs. The Auburn and Rockton intersection does not. It turns out not only does that intersection not qualify for a crossing guard, it doesn't qualify for school zone signs either.
"A signalized intersection is already telling people there's some importance there. There's a signal there. So it's redundant to put a sign, a school crossing sign, at a signalized intersection," said Carter.
So what is the solution? Carter and Wilson both agree the burden to ensure children are crossing an intersection safely to and from school lies with the parents.
"I think all parents should maybe just watch their children from a corner and see what they're actually doing. Going to and from school," said Wilson.
While that may not be the only solution, it may be a good start for parents to revisit a lecture they probably haven't made in years. Look both ways before crossing the street. It just might save their child's life.
Wilson says students crossing the roads illegally isn't a problem unique to West Middle and Auburn High Schools. He says schools all over the Rockford area experience students disobeying the rules of the road. He urges parents everywhere to take a moment and talk with their kids about the importance of walking across the street safely.
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