As schools reopen, cops go after drivers who violate crosswalk rules
Dottie Murphy hadn't quite made it back to her Fairfield Woods Road post Thursday morning after shepherding a group of Stratfield School students and their parents across the street. Just then, a beige SUV dashed through the red traffic light.
It's not an uncommon occurrence, according to Murphy, parents and police officials.
"It's absolutely scary," said Cheryl Eustace, who walks with her three school-age children to school every day, including a fifth-grader. "I would never let her walk by herself. We have to cross Stratfield Road and Melville, and it's not safe."
As classes resumed Thursday for the new school year in Fairfield, police were out at various crosswalks, handing out tickets to violators of the law that they come to a complete stop when pedestrians are crossing. "It's very important," said police Lt. James Perez, adding that motorists and pedestrians alike need to be aware that traffic patterns change once the school year starts. There are more cars, more pedestrians and, of course, more school buses.
Stratfield parent Samantha Gilhuly was glad to hear that police are stepping up enforcement of state laws that require motorists to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. "When I was a child, there was a serious accident here," she said.
And it's not just commuters hurrying to get to work, Gilhuly said, because there are dangers posed by parents racing to drop off their kids at school.
"We're going to step up enforcement for the next few days around the different crosswalks and then evaluate it," Perez said, "and monitor it."
It's not a problem just in Fairfield. On Wednesday, a 16-year-old boy in Milford was struck by a car as he was walking to school and Stratford is working on a project to install school speed zone signs and raised crosswalks.
On Thursday, Fairfield police issued about eight tickets to drivers who violated the crosswalk rules, Perez said.
"It's a tough corner," Murphy said of the site where she's been a crosswalk guard for the past three years. A bright yellow sign that Murphy puts in the middle of the crosswalk on Fairfield Woods Road helps alert drivers.
"Everybody's in a hurry, they think you're holding them up," she said. Frustrated motorists have beeped, yelled and even cursed at her.
The school children, Murphy and Perez said, don't always move as fast as motorists would like. "And kids' behavior can be unpredictable," Perez said, making it even more important that motorists come to a full stop, about 10 feet from the crosswalk, and don't start up again until given the signal from a crossing guard.
Pedestrians also have some responsibilities, he said, and can't just blindly step into a crosswalk without checking for traffic. Downtown along the busy Post Road, for example, pedestrians should cross only when all the traffic lights at an intersection are red.
Improvements to the Fairfield Woods-Melville Avenue intersection are in the works, which include new traffic signals and extended curbs, to slow down traffic as it rounds the corner onto Melville.