Picking up her kindergartner at Sangaree Elementary in the afternoon is an exercise in patience for Jenifer Caldwell.
“If I’m running late, it’s an absolute nightmare,” said the Summerville mother. “With all the schools in that area, traffic backs up. Then drivers get impatient and that’s just a recipe for a disaster. I’ve seen several near-misses there.”
Those issues have led Berkeley County School District officials to kick off today a grass-roots campaign called “Drive Like Your Child Lives Here” aimed at encouraging people to drive carefully in the area of the schools.
Although the campaign is focused on the Sangaree Elementary, Intermediate and Middle schools, which are in the Royle Road area, drivers everywhere are encouraged to use caution, school district officials said.
“That seems to be a major area of congestion due to there being three schools on that little two-lane road,” said Berkeley County Sheriff’s Capt. Melissa L. Blanchard of the Community Services Division. “There have been several problems there over the years.”
Last May, a crossing guard, Natalie Boles, ended up in intensive care after being struck by a vehicle that was making a left turn from Royle Road onto School House Lane. On Feb. 8, Sangaree Elementary School crossing guard Elizabeth Taylor was nearly struck by a car in front of the school on Royle Road.
“We cannot ticket or stop drivers,” said District Superintendent Rodney Thompson. “However, drivers must understand that we will report license plate numbers to local police officers to pursue anyone who endangers the life of our staff or students.”
The district has requested traffic-light studies from the Department of Transportation on the interchange of Royle Road and School House Lane three times since 2005, but the DOT has not found enough evidence to justify a light. Instead, the district has increased parking areas on school grounds to try to improve the situation, Thompson said.
“Our hands are tied,” he said. “On school property we have done everything we can do to protect children and staff. On public rights of way adjacent to our schools we are powerless. We are pleading with the public to take responsibility for personal driving behavior and to slow down in school zones.”
Blanchard said drivers are encouraged to report dangerous drivers by calling the Sheriff’s Department at 723-3800, ext. 4412.
The campaign will involve parent meetings and increased presence of law enforcement during drop-off and pickup hours.
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or www.facebook.com/brindge.