In a flash

Published 6:28 pm Friday, April 3, 2009

Approximately 1,650 students, countless mothers and fathers or other relatives, and approximately 175 staff and faculty members will be going back and forth starting in August to the new Bainbridge High School—the new shining beacon of our community.

Builders and architects beamed with pride as they all talked Thursday morning about how uniquely grand this building is and how well this project progressed.

However, the question was asked if there will be a stoplight at the school’s entrance.

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Nope, just a flashing light.

According to a spokesman with the Georgia Department of Transportation, the busy U.S. 84 East will only have a flashing, overhead light signifying a school zone.

But on an east-west highway where speeds quickly build up to more than 55 mph and on school mornings when the rising sun may prove to be a factor in safely driving through a school zone, a little, ole flashing yellow light may not cut it.

Since before the high school’s construction started, members of the community—moms, dads, sisters, brothers and others who will traverse U.S. 84 East on school mornings and afternoons—have wanted a stoplight at the entrance.

DOT says no because it could hinder traffic flow.

Teenagers just learning to drive don’t have the same appreciation to another vehicle’s speed. So if they pull out after stopping at the flashing light at the same time a trucker going 65 mph doesn’t see the yellow flashing light, well, what would the consequences be?

What if the Georgia Department of Transportation installs a dual-functioning light?

Many counties have dual-function lights—those that serve as stoplights when traffic flow dictates it, and then switch to a flashing light when traffic decreases. The light could be a stoplight when students are arriving and departing the new campus, and then switch to a flashing light, or no light at all, when school’s not in session.

No can do, said DOT spokesman Mike McKinnon, on Friday.

Many counties have them, but the state doesn’t use them because of a maintenance issue. Instead of having a light that just goes “blink, blink,” dual-functioning lights are just too much for the DOT to maintain.

The DOT needs to stop using morbid criteria for determining the necessity of a stoplight or the potential inconvenience of having to maintain a dual-function light as an excuse for not putting the kids’ safety first.

Put the best safety device out there in front of the new high school, because makeshift memorials are just not an option.