Parking enforcement monitors Shannon Bush and Tami Leighty donned bright yellow vests and gloves Monday afternoon as they prepared to shepherd Bel Air Elementary School students and parents through the intersection of Hickory Avenue and Lee Way.
Bush, a three-year veteran of the Bel Air Police Department’s parking enforcement unit, stepped into the street on the south side of the intersection about 10 minutes before dismissal time. She held traffic as people crossed, including adults on their way to pick up their children fresh off the first day of the 2023-24 school year. Once pedestrians crossed, Bush beckoned vehicles through.
Leighty, who became a parking enforcement monitor earlier this summer, had her first experience directing school traffic on Monday, helping walkers cross at Hickory and Lee safely during morning arrival and afternoon dismissal times at BAES.
She worked in tandem with Bush, holding traffic on the north side of the intersection as adults and children hurried through the crosswalk, and Bush stopped traffic on the south side. The monitors worked amid a thoroughfare filled with personal vehicles, as well as school buses, delivery trucks, even emergency vehicles such as a fire engine heading north on Hickory Avenue, its siren blaring.
The monitors spent about 30 minutes at the intersection Monday afternoon, ensuring all pedestrians and school buses passed through safely. Afterwards, Bush stressed the need for drivers to “slow down and be mindful” when in school zones and follow the instructions of crossing guards.
As for pedestrians, they should cross the street in a crosswalk and follow crossing guards’ instructions as well, according to Bush.
Pedestrians, in general, should remain alert when walking around town and cross the street in a marked crosswalk. Drivers must yield the right of way to people in the crosswalk.
“[Pedestrians should] make sure they use crosswalks at all times – that’s where their protection lies,” said Sgt. James Farrell, administrative sergeant for the Bel Air Police Department.
Pedestrians also should cross at well-lit intersections and avoid wearing dark clothing if they are out around twilight or later. Farrell advised pedestrians to “make eye contact” with drivers as they cross the street to help ensure motorists yield the right of way to them.
“Safety for drivers and pedestrians should remain the most important thing,” Farrell said.
In addition to pedestrians in school zones, drivers should be mindful around school buses. Motorists behind a school bus should slow down if the bus’s lights begin flashing yellow, then stop at least 20 feet away when the bus has stopped with red lights flashing and the Stop arm extended while children get off or on the bus. Drivers traveling in both directions on a two-lane road must stop when a school bus is stopped with red lights and the Stop arm extended.
It is illegal for drivers to pass a stopped school bus. Stop-arm cameras have been installed on at least 100 Harford County Public Schools buses and will record drivers who pass a bus. A citation, with a fine of $125, will then be mailed to the address of the vehicle’s registered owner, according to the Harford County Sheriff’s Office.
If a driver is caught passing a school bus by a police officer, the driver faces a fine of up to $570 plus three points on their driver’s license, according to the Maryland Center for School Safety.
“We love the children,” Bush said. “We love our job; we love keeping the community safe. It’s all about awareness and community cooperation.”
A BAPD school resource officer is assigned to traffic control at crossings along Kenmore Avenue at Bel Air High School, according to Farrell.
The sergeant stressed the need for everyone, drivers and pedestrians, to exercise patience at crossings.
“Everyone has somewhere to go, but they still have to be patient,” he said.
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