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What to do about drivers racing through school zones

WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

An increasing problem with safety for students in Buffalo is starting to bring reaction in official circles. The difficulty is that there are so many problems to deal with and so many agencies involved.

More and more drivers are racing through school zones and refusing to stop as a yellow school bus flashes those red lights to warn there are kids getting on and off.

There have been some really close calls for kids heading to school.

"They have had near-misses with major tragedies," said Will Keresztes, chief of intergovernmental affairs, planning and community engagement for Buffalo Public Schools. "Those were School 32 Montessori, Early Childhood Center 54 on Main St., School 64 Olmsted on Lincoln Parkway and Southside 93. And those tragedies were only avoided with just an awful lot of luck and God's presence."

Doing something about this is complicated because it involves Buffalo Police, the Common Council, Buffalo Public Schools, private, parochial and charter schools and the location of some schools on major traffic arteries and others on residential streets.

Councilmembers Ulysees Wingo and Joel Feroleto are pushing for changes. Feroleto said safety changes can work.

"I'm confident that we will be able to address these issues and the Buffalo Police just did a great job with traffic enforcement around North Park Academy, where they had a detail there for one month and that was based on community complaints," Feroleto said, "and I think everyone is going to work together and we'll make the school areas safer for the children."

As a new community school, North Park Academy is getting a lot more foot traffic morning and afternoon, with speeding cars a problem around it.

The Council Community Development Committee tabled the proposal Wednesday while refining plans.

The City Public Works Department will check every building to see what might be done to increase safety. That's making sure the school zone signs are up and the pavement markings are there. There are also talks with police about more enforcement around schools.

Wingo said better police enforcement would help.

"So that if there is someone who is driving at excessive speed in and around the schools, around drop-off and pickup time, that the police actually do have an apparatus that they can use to cite someone with a summons or a traffic summons," Wingo said. "So we want to make sure that all of these things are happening successively. We don't want anything to fall through the cracks."