In My Opinion

Fabiola Santiago: Excess traffic around schools is deadly

“Drive like your kids live here.”

So pleads the red-and-white sign in the front yard of a home across from a charter school in the Palm Springs North area.

I drive by this street often, and the sign always moves me, shames me, really, into slowing down — and I’m grateful for the emotional reminder.

It must be frightening to live on a thoroughfare used to drop off and pick up children while others are walking to school — the same road traveled by the school’s newly minted teen-aged drivers, not to mention commuters in a hurry. It’s a busy route that a decade ago didn’t exist, but now is an exit out of tightly squeezed neighborhoods.

This landscape of busy residential streets is, unfortunately, not an exception. In our overdeveloped county, the clutter created by excess traffic and multiple schools packed into one zone is a reality from Aventura to Kendall.

And so are the national statistics: car accidents are the leading cause of death of children ages 3 to 14; in 70 percent of the cases the children are killed or injured a few blocks from home. Speeding is the most common violation involved.

In Miami-Dade, the latest casualty is 6-year-old Betasha Bien-Aime, killed Wednesday while walking with her grandmother across Northeast 213th Place, a long residential street, to Madie Ives Elementary.

Betasha was struck and run over by a 16-year-old Davie girl driving a white Mercedes to nearby Dr. Michael Krop Senior High, a magnet school that attracts kids from all over.

The driver also knocked down a school zone sign, ripped it out of the ground and hit another car.

Betasha’s grandmother, Emilia Frenell, remains hospitalized with a broken arm and leg.

It’s not the first time the family has suffered for living close to the high school.

A couple of years ago, they told Herald reporter Carli Teproff, a car smashed through their home’s fence and hit the house.

People in the neighborhood say that Krop students “shoot through that street” and park on swale areas so they can hop the school fence and leave when they want. The school disputes that, saying the principal monitors the parking situation, but in the working-class neighborhood, the students’ BMWs and Mercedeses are hard to miss.

Regardless, it behooves school officials to take action, talk about this tragedy, and create awareness among the students about the consequences of speeding, of being distracted by cell phones and friends. (Police confiscated the teenage driver’s cell phone to determine whether she was using it at the time of the accident; they continue investigating and haven’t charged her).

Parents in the neighborhood are rightfully mad — but they also need to take action: Push for improvements to the traffic patterns of the neighborhood. Report the speeders to police and to the school. Work with both of the schools to improve conditions. Insist on the creation of crosswalks, speed bumps and a better distribution of crossing guards.

And post on front lawns that red-and-white sign, the creation of a Connecticut mom whose home sat between two elementary schools and a high school with similar speed issues — and now the symbol of a national safety campaign.

Drive like your kids live here. A motto for the times.

Read more Fabiola Santiago stories from the Miami Herald

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