Children asked to promote traffic safety

They might not be old enough to apply for a license, but elementary-school-aged children can still do their part to promote safe driving at and around school sites, Glendale Police Officer Matt Bolton said Tuesday during a presentation at Chamlian Armenian School in La Crescenta.

Looking both ways before stepping into the street, using crosswalks and observing traffic signs will all help to minimize the risk of a pedestrian accident, Bolton said.

"Just last Thursday, we had a young kid going down to Lincoln Elementary in La Crescenta here on bicycle, with his helmet on, thank goodness," Bolton said. "He ran a stop sign and ran into the side of a pickup truck."

Students have a responsibility to remind parents to use caution when driving in a school zone, Bolton said. Even a momentary distraction can be fatal, he noted, citing a 2008 accident where a Keppel Elementary School mom struck and killed an 11-year-old Toll Middle School student.

"I was the second guy [at the accident scene], and it is the most horrifying thing you will ever see in your life," Bolton said. "Two families ruined."

Chamlian Armenian School has struggled to manage traffic congestion at its site at 4444 Lowell Ave., just south of Foothill Boulevard. The school, which enrolls 500 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, is busiest during morning pickup and afternoon drop-off.

The Planning Commission last month denied building permits for a proposed 9,345-square-foot gym at Chamlian after a dozen neighbors argued that the development would exacerbate existing traffic and parking issues on neighbrohood streets. The decision has been appealed to the City Council.

The school established a traffic safety committee last year that has been working closely with local law enforcement, said parent volunteer Maro Yacoubian. Priorities include enforcement, education, encouragement and engineering.

Volunteer parents and staff now monitor the school driveway, directing traffic and assisting children in and out of cars, said Yacoubian, who also serves on the city Transportation and Parking Commission. She has also taken to walking neighboring streets to ensure parents aren't blocking driveways or obstructing traffic.

The school's traffic safety committee is also encouraging families to park a safe distance away and walk their children to the campus. She has since seen the number of walkers double, Yacoubian said.

"This is serious business," Yacoubian said, addressing the students. "We are all very committed to making you safe. I do not want to open up the paper and see a student from Chamlian Armenian School has been hit."

School officials said they have already begun preparing a safe-driving pledge that will be mailed out to all of its families in the coming months. In the meantime, they are calling on their students to be ambassadors for safety.

"When your name is called, you go to the driveway and you make sure you sit in the back of the car," said Chamlian Vice Principal Rita Kaprielian. "No cell phones, even in the driveway …You can tell your mother, or your dad, or your granddad, 'Don't use the cell phone, Officer Bolton told us, and that is the law.'"

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