Parents Ignore Driving Laws, Make Turlock Schools Unsafe

Brandon McMillan/TurlockCityNews.com|

Traffic concerns are mounting at schools throughout the Turlock Unified School District. According to school site and district officials, much of the problem revolves around parents failing to follow established traffic rules.

While essentially all schools experience congested traffic during drop off and dismissal times, some schools seem to be experiencing serious problems that could affect student safety. Parents have publicly complained about the situations at Julien Elementary, Walnut Elementary, Turlock Junior High School and Medeiros Elementary.

“I am so worried every morning and afternoon for the kids,” Julien parent Amber Brown McElroy posted on Facebook. “I have my son meet me at the Starbucks parking lot. People are so dumb, double parking and not pulling all the way in the drop-off zone. Seriously, your child can walk an extra 20 feet to class instead of them getting out double parked and getting hit.”

TUSD Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Mike Trainor says the district is continuously monitoring the traffic situation. He said the district, school site administration, the City of Turlock and Turlock Police Department are in constant communication about traffic safety issues at schools.

Julien Elementary recently completed a $450,000 parking facility makeover, which opened at the start of this school year. Parents now drop off and pick up children in a specified area, rather than on Canal Drive.

However, problems persist.

“We are actually much safer with the new parking lot,” Julien Principal Linda Murphy-Lopes wrote in an email to TurlockCityNews.com. “It has relieved a lot of the problems, but unfortunately many parents do not follow the safe driving protocols that they all learned about when they received their license.”

Trainor says parents are notified of the proper procedures, usually in both verbal and written forms.

At Julien, parents were sent letters detailing the new traffic plan. Maps and signs indicate where parking is available. And safety handbooks and plans were shared with parents and students.

But many parents are simply ignoring all of the guidelines.

“We can see that the offenders are the adults that are (double parking, blocking the drop-off zones, ignoring signs and directions from staff…),” Murphy-Lopes said. “If adults picking students up would park correctly (not in the red zones), and not leave cars unattended, and not block driveways, drive-through's and such…AND be patient…it would help all schools!”

Parents at other Turlock school echoed Murphy-Lopes’ concerns with parents’ driving.

Brandi Makin, a parent of Walnut Elementary Education Center students, said double-parking often leads to confrontations at the school.

“There are some sort of arguments and/or fights I see every day amongst drivers,” posted Makin on Facebook. “People park in the middle of the roads and turn off their cars. People park in the middle of the parking lot (behind parked cars) and leave their vehicles to walk and pick up their kids. It is madness!”

And parents at Medeiros Elementary School also ignore parking laws, Medeiros parent Lon MacDowell said.

“Medeiros has ‘No Parking’ signs, people still park there,” MacDowell posted. “People pull up and park right in front of the office, park, and drop their kids. People drop their kids on the other side of the lot and kids dart through cars. The staff tell the parents not to do this, parents still do. It's the same over at the junior high, I see so many parents pull up to the light and drop their kids in the crosswalk. It's insane.”

Turlock police are present many mornings to help enforce the traffic laws, pulling over many parents.

But police cannot be at every school every day, noted Rachelle Little-Heppner, a parent of students at Dutcher and Walnut. Parents must start to police themselves.

“(The police) are doing their jobs, the parents just don't care,” Little-Heppner said. “It's all about what's most convenient for them. Walnut repeatedly sends out notes describing the safest and most effective way to drop off and pick up your kids. Yet people still fly through the parking lot, double park and ignore safety in general. I think it would help to have the administration out walking around. It's not just the job of the police department. Parents need to be responsible, too.”

Compounding the issue is the fact that fewer students now walk to and from school, leading to more traffic congestion as students are dropped off and picked up. While there are no actual TUSD statistics on the percentage of students who walk, it is generally assumed that the trend has increased traffic problems and decreased student safety around schools.

“This trend has increased over the years and continues to be a concern for us,” said Trainor. “Again, we will continue to monitor this closely in order to ensure student safety.” 

Comments 5

  1. Driver says:
    So True! Parents around Walnut are rude and have no idea of the law. They block the rode so others can't get by. They don't know what a round about is. People blow there the Yield sign everyday around Walnut.
  2. Wm Goss says:
    Yes people are DUMP. I see it everywhere. For some reason they think they are supposed to be there first......When they hit a child, maybe, maybe they'll wake up.
  3. Heather c says:
    I am from Turlock and this has always been a problem. Where I live now we have designated pattern and line to stay in with teachers along the way guiding and directing people. Parents are not allowed to exit vehicles but have a paper with their child's name on it. The teacher have wallow talkies and when the cars are in line they call out the child's name and the teacher opens the door. Let's the child get in and even helps with buckling them in. And it's goes in order and within twenty minutes all the kids are picked up. Plus they dismiss car rides, bus riders, and walkers at different times so that they are not all out at the same time it's safer for the kids who walk and ride bikes. Just an idea but it really works I have even moved back to Cali and was sooooo frustrated. And honestly glad to move again. Maybe this can help???
  4. April says:
    Okay, so.....When I lived in the big city, the solution was 2 parking enforcement officers giving out tickets for double parkers and red zone parkers in the morning and afternoon. Parents park a block or two away and walk their kids to and from the gate. Tickets were $40.00.
  5. Sue Benavidez says:
    The police aren't really interested in the child's safety or they would be in those parking lots instructing parents what to do and not to do for their child's safety and those of others. By the junior high school, there are police on the side streets poised waiting for a speeding driver. They are more interested in collecting revenue than the safety of the child. I have driven by there on very dark and/or foggy mornings when it would be most beneficial for officers to be there but they are nowhere to be found. SMH

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