I had every intention of writing a post to update our audience on what's going on with Start School Later. However, what came crashing through my driveway Wednesday, literally, has compelled me yet again to stop in my tracks and make an urgent plea:
When are we going to wake up?
When are we going to stop this roller coaster life long enough to realize that we need to stop putting our heads in the sand and wish away our problems?
When are we going to stop accepting that how we live is normal and that we shouldn't expect better?
When are we going to start putting health and safety first instead of wrestling with budget line items and the inconveniences of modern life spinning wildly out of control?
The picture I posted is what I took this morning, next to my mailbox. If that car chose to lose control an hour earlier, twenty minutes earlier or an hour later, this would be a different post and the news would be much worse.
My insides are still tense at the thought, and I am thankful that while the front of my house is literally surrounded by live wires, we are all safe (and I'm at the Starbucks, waiting to pick up my kids from school...).
This is the third accident in as many months. In December, some poor soul plowed into my tree, barely missing the utility pole, because he had to swerve away from an oncoming car that lost control. This past fall, my next door neighbor's utility pole took a hit when an out of control car hit it, knocking out everyone's power in the next 5 miles for most of the day.
While I'm thankful there were no fatalities in all these wrecks, it wasn't because the accidents were fender benders. It's because, thankfully, no one happened to be out in at the exact time of impact. We are playing roulette with this road.
B&A Blvd is a state road (Route 648), which has a speed limit of 45 MPH and zero traffic lights from Lower Magothy Bridge Road all the way to Ritchie Highway. The road is packed during peak hours (I can set my watch to the standstill of cars at 5:30pm every week day). And, some folks may not realize, that this highway is also a RESIDENTIAL road. People reside live right on Baltimore Annapolis Boulevard. I live right there - not tucked away in a cul de sac or community development.
I cannot tell you how many times I see and hear the bus drivers, frantically leaning on their horns to get cars to slow down because the buses are coming to a stop and attempting to pick up school children. My children. Your children.
With the recesssion, there have been more pedestrians (not to mention runners and bikers) on this road than ever before.
The solution is to put in a traffic light on B&A and Willet Road and slow down the speed limit. (The speed limit of a residential road is 25 MPH). The fact that there is no traffic light on this curved stretch of open road with a high speed limit encourages fast driving. Couple that with the fact there are no sidewalks and it is a recipe for disaster.
I will be requesting a traffic light and a lowered speed limit on this road and will keep you updated on my progress. When I mentioned this on Facebook, a friend, posted, "They won't do anything unless there are fatalities." Sadly, it didn't take me long to pull up a fatality on this same stretch of road.
We are a nation asleep at the wheel. The state of sleep deprivation is so rampant that hardly anyone can get on without a few cups of coffee. Step into the Walgreen's and you'll see two aisles dedicated to energy drinks, energy shots, pills, and gums, all of which are available to minors.
Sleepy's Mattress stores are multiplying like rabbits and the problem isn't our mattresses, it's that we have been lulled into thinking that 24 hour access to everything is a necessity and we can't rest. It's no wonder we're busy getting addicted to sleep drugs like ambien and now have access to ZzzQuil instead of NyQuil, JUST to go to sleep.
It's no wonder that we tell our students they should just "suck it up" and take this kind of abuse, because they'll have to learn to cope with it as adults. We save a few dollars and tell our students by our actions that they are just about as important as the recycling we leave on the curb during predawn hours.
I cannot leave well enough alone. Just as I will campaign for traffic safety on my own street, I will continue to beat the drum for later school starts. It's high time that we stop putting athletic programs, convenience and budget line items ahead of the health and safety of our students.
I shudder to think that while all four of the accidents I documented here happened during daylight hours, there are many that have happened during predawn hours across the country, as students figure out a way to get to school in the dark.
For a listing of accidents and fatalities involving school students during predawn hours, look here.
If we invested $800,000 in transportation costs, that would be the equivalent of just under $11 per student in our system of 74,795 students.
With $11 per student, we could reduce sleep deprivation, which would then reduce obesity, depression, suicidal ideation, risky behaviors such as underage drinking and illegal drug use and crime. Eleven dollars. Are we going to continue to sit down and say that eliminating the cause of endangering our youth and restricting their ability to get the sleep they need is not feasible?
It's time to wake up. Our kids deserve better. We all deserve better. And, we are smart enough, inventive enough and more than able to work together as a community to fix this.
Maribel Ibrahim, The Frugal Writer, created www.StartSchoolLater.net and is the Director of Strategic Planning for Start School Later, Inc., a grassroots non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that the health, safety and equity of children are protected when determining school start times. Start School Later now has 11 local chapters, working in communities across the country to protect the sleep needs of public school students. Most recently, the Howard County Chapter joined the effort to combat unhealthy school start times.