Many of us played and biked on our neighborhood streets when we were kids, and we have children who do the same thing today so we aren’t overly skittish about letting them walk on our neighborhood streets on their way to the bus stop or to school.
But what about when they get off of those quiet neighborhood streets and the posted speed limit gets above around 30-35 miles per hour or vehicles use our child’s route to school as a cut-through to avoid slower traffic on a different road? Or what about when our child reaches larger thoroughfares where the speed limits are higher?
When you think about your child walking to school outside of your neighborhood, do you expect that they’ll walk on the street or do you expect that they’ll have a sidewalk or a wide shoulder well-separated from the road to walk on?
You might be surprised to learn that the Hazardous Walking Conditions statute in the Education Code within the Florida Statutes (section 1006.23) doesn’t require a walkway off of and alongside the road unless the traffic volume on the road is at least 180 vehicles per hour in each direction.
180 vehicles in each direction… That amounts to a total of at least 360 vehicles per hour or at least 1 vehicle every 10 seconds before the child is considered to be endangered by not having a safe place to walk off of the road.
What’s worse is that the statute is written in a way that not only makes the required traffic volume ridiculously high, it requires a high traffic volume in each direction that can preempt a determination that even a dangerously high volume of traffic in the direction that the child is walking is hazardous.
Think about it. In the morning within a reasonable walking distance of school, in what direction is most of the traffic likely to flow? Toward school, right? What about in the afternoon just after school dismissal? Right…away from school, so requiring traffic to flow at a high volume in each direction makes a determination that the conditions are hazardous less likely, even though the volume of traffic on the road really is hazardous for our children.
It’s time for the Florida Department of Education and the Florida legislature to adopt a reasonable and practical criteria that safeguards our children as they walk to and from school. We have written a proposal that gives them an excellent place to start and we’re working to gain their support for it.