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Op-Ed: Lower the Speed Limits Around Seneca Valley High School

“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children. “ -- ­Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Germantown is bursting at the seams with 100,000 residents. We are the third largest community in Maryland behind Baltimore and Columbia.

The defacto center of Germantown is at the intersection of Middlebrook Road and Germantown Road.

With the new Seneca Valley High School on the horizon — hopefully by 2018 — the population of the school will jump from 1400 to 2400. One thousand additional students. Imagine the increases in cars, buses and foot traffic.

Germantown Road/MD Route 118 is just two-tenths of a mile from Seneca Valley High School. The speed limit on Germantown Road is 40 mph; however, many vehicles appear to be traveling at greater speeds.

High school students must walk if they live within two miles of their high school. The county does not provide crossing guards for high school students and recommends that the PTA be the source of financing for a crossing guard.

Why not bus the students across Germantown Road and have them disembark at a safe area on the other side of MD Route 118? There are a number of safe areas in the shopping mall with McDonalds and Giant on the western side of Middlebrook Road. They could continue their walk home from this point.

The bus option would be an improvement for the seven lanes of traffic that must be navigated from one side of MD Rt. 118 to another. There are 25 lanes of traffic at that intersection altogether.

We have some sections of I- 270 that have about six lanes of highway, excluding the exit lanes. We would not ask children to cross I-270, yet the speed of some of the vehicles exceed 50 mph on Germantown Road. We put some of our students in harm’s way as many as four times a day.

Students must wait for the rotation of the lanes of traffic and cannot simply push the pedestrian button and get an immediate signal to cross the road. It takes two-and-a-half minutes for the rotation of the traffic lanes to allow pedestrians to walk.

Jaywalking is a daily occurrence. Students feel that they have safety in numbers and that they are invincible.

Often when they get the signal to proceed they step out without checking on the traffic. It is rare to see a student look left before stepping out. In the last three years, I have personally seen approximately 10 accidents prevented by a volunteer shouting “heads up” or a student or volunteer pulling someone away, at the last second, to prevent them from walking into the path of a speeding car. Police statistics do not list close calls.

It complicates matters that cars waiting for a traffic light do not have easy access to see the