Traffic management at Mercer Island High School is sub-standard

The news that a pair of Mercer Island High School students were hit by a car in a crosswalk there a week ago was chilling. One of the students, a junior, who was to be the lead in the school play just three days later, ended up in the hospital with broken bones and bruises and likely a good deal of disappointment. It could hardly be a shock to anyone who drives through the neighborhood daily. Counting St. Monica School, Crest, preschools and day cares, there are a half dozen youth and educational institutions around the high school. The accident was surely no surprise to the neighbors who likely changed their driving habits long ago to avoid the traffic quagmire around MIHS at 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. It has happened before and was bound to happen again. Last spring, an Island student, riding his bike just as school let out, went head-first through the rear window of a car that had to stop suddenly near the same crosswalk at 89th Avenue S.E. and S.E. 42nd Street. He was seriously hurt.

It is ironic that despite how hard the city and the school district work to keep our youth safe from drugs and alcohol, something as basic as traffic safety is left out at perhaps the very place where it is needed most.

The city, through its safety programs such as DARE and Communities That Care, works to help youth stay safe by avoiding dangerous substances and situations. The Mercer Island School District has these and other programs that also promote safe and healthy living. The district provides staff at the three elementary schools and Islander Middle School to guide drivers, buses and students in and around the schools and adjacent streets, thus managing the flow of both traffic and pedestrians. So, why not do the same at the high school? It is a virtual free-for-all. Stressed parents, commuters and students are distracted and in a hurry. The streets are narrow and sidewalks are few. Kids do not look as they step into the street.

Let’s not wait for a tragedy to do something.

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