SLOW DOWN, DRIVERS, AND BE ALERT

September 09, 2003 12:00 am

School has resumed and that means children are out and about walking to and from school, after-school activities and bus stops. Motorists need to remember that it's time to slow down and be alert.

"YOU HAVE THE responsibility to be alert and avoid injuring children,'' said Rick Waring of the Oregon Department of Transportation's Safety Division. The best way to avoid a tragedy, Waring said, is to obey the posted speed in school zones and to keep a close eye to the whereabouts of children, who will occasionally walk or pedal into unsafe areas.

"Children are not little adults,'' Waring said. ‘They are still developing their sensory and cognitive skills, so adults need to be especially cautious when driving in areas frequented by kids.''

IN LA GRANDE, certain areas demand extra caution. Drivers need to be alert in all of the school zones, of course, but other key streets also see a lot of pedestrian activity. Fourth Street, Sunset, Willow and Spruce are places where lots of school traffic can be present.

A disaster waiting to happen exists on N Avenue, which has become a route for many drivers — many of them students heading to and from the high school. It's also used by hospital employees heading to and from work. Later this month all of those people will be joined by students and staff headed to and from the university. At 8 a.m., at noon and at 5 p.m., what once was a neighborhood street becomes one of the most congested in the city. Motorists who use the street need to keep their speed and pedestrians in mind.

ALL DRIVERS, WHETHER traveling N Avenue, Fourth Street or a less busy street, must remember that pedestrians' right of way exists at every intersection, even if crosswalks are not marked.

La Grande's pedestrian safety record is good. We need to keep it that way. Now that school's back in session and the university will be starting classes soon, let's all do what we can to ensure safe streets.

GETTING THE WORD OUT

Homeland security is an important issue, and after 9/11 the Bush administration saw it as important enough to add a separate Department of Homeland Security to the federal government. A number of existing agencies were put under the Homeland Security umbrella.

NEW BUREAUCRACIES TAKE time to establish, and Homeland Security is no different. Since its implementation, the department has been making adjustments in the areas it oversees. Most recently, the department scaled back on the number of airport screeners it hired after 9/11.

Surely more changes are coming, but one The Observer would appreciate is scaling back on press releases – especially repeat ones. During one announcement in August, The Observer received 10 copies by fax of a two-page press release on a campaign aimed at reducing infant and toddler fire deaths. It appears Homeland Security still has some bugs to work out.