Some of the worst traffic snafus witnessed in Bend take place almost every day — twice a day — at specific locations in every part of town.
Backed-up cars, frustrated drivers and clogged lanes proliferate. Thousands of vehicles, all of them carrying vulnerable and impressionable child passengers, are in play. There may be some under-the-breath swearing involved (ideally, not on the part of the children).
I’m talking about school drop-off and pick-up, which, based on the conversations I’ve had with several other parents, can be one of the most frustrating parts of the daily get-the-kids-to-school routine.
Mornings are hard enough as it is. Parents are in a hurry. We’ve already been through the blood-pressure-testing exercise of chivvying the kids through getting dressed, eating breakfast, rounding up backpacks and signing homework. We’ve already engaged in the blood-boiling 20-minute search for a missing shoe.
The last thing parents need at this point is road rage in a school zone.
Of course, the bus is a great way for many kids to get to school, but we live outside of the school’s official boundaries, and therefore bussing is not an option.
Some schools — particularly older schools in the middle of residential neighborhoods — have no obvious drop-off zones. I am told by a colleague that her daughter’s elementary school, on a busy west Bend street and surrounded by less busy streets, is a confused nightmare during drop-off and pick-up.
The school my kids attend, on the other hand, is like many other elementary schools in that it has an official driveway for parents to pull through to drop off little learners. The driveway is a one-way half circle with two lanes. Pull up, drop off, move on. That’s how it should work.
But a major flaw comes into play in these driveways: The drivers of 75 percent of the cars apparently feel the need to stop directly in front of the main office/entrance. Which means the cars behind them in the driveway stack up as they wait for their turn to pull into the three-car-length sweet spot in front of the office.
Because only one lane of travel is open to parents at the entrance to the driveway, this cluster of cars at the front blocks access to other vehicles waiting to disgorge kids onto the school grounds so their drivers can hurry on to work. What ensues is a longer and longer line of irritated parents tapping their fingers on their steering wheels while they wait for the cars in front of them to get out of the way. The longer the line gets, the more irritated the waiting parents get. The more irritated the waiting parents get (at least if that waiting parent is me), the more likely kids are to hear a few choice words not meant for young ears.
Which leads me to suggest to every other parent who drops their kids off at school to do what smart parents everywhere do: PULL FORWARD.
This is not difficult or complicated. If you, dear parent, park your car as far forward in the driveway as you can, more vehicles will be able to pull in behind you and do the same thing, leading to a more efficient, faster and more orderly process. Pulling forward helps eliminate the cluster of cars in front of the office, the subsequent waiting line of cars behind that, and the need for cursing on school grounds. Everybody wins.
And honestly, the maximum possible distance children would have to walk from the farthest end of the driveway would be about 30 yards. Nothing bad will happen to them during that time. Some good things might even happen — they might be inspired to do a goofy dance while they are walking, or they might be able to say hello to a teacher.
And you, dear parent, will have made everyone’s morning commute that much more pleasant. Isn’t that what we all want?