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Auburn residents find danger on the roads

Intersections are cause for concern, caution
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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For Neal Lohner, walking his daughter to school has sometimes felt more like a real-life reenactment of the video game Frogger than a stroll through Auburn. The Rock Creek Elementary School father is among other Auburn residents who say they are fed up with poor drivers, who make certain intersections in town dangerous. California Highway Patrol officers and schools officials say while following the law may not always seem convenient, it does help prevent accidents. Lohner said he was first frustrated by the traffic around his daughter Destiny’s school five years ago. At the time, he said red curbs were not painted in no-parking areas. Since then the curbs have been painted, but people continue to park in undesignated areas. Lohner said his biggest concern is the speed at which people approach the crosswalk on Education Street, parallel to Overmiller Drive and Highway 49. “Half of the people don’t have any consideration if you are in the crosswalk,” Lohner said. “They don’t even slow down at the signal. You basically have to do it at your own risk.” Part of the problem is that the crosswalk comes so quickly after a traffic signal, according to Lohner. He said he has seen cars almost run into the crossing guard on multiple occasions. He said a stop sign, lower speed limit or speed detector may cause drivers to slow down. “If they had a stop sign, I think it would slow people down a lot more,” Lohner said. “In Reno they have a 10 mph speed limit around schools and if you go even 11 mph they bust you. I’d like to see one of those speed signs.” Suzanne Flint, Rock Creek Elementary School principal, said she has talked to a civil engineer from Placer County about the possibility of a stop sign at the crosswalk, but doesn’t see that happening anytime soon. Flint is often the crossing guard at the intersection and said she doesn’t feel it presents a safety concern. “We were talking a little about a stop sign on Education Street. She (the engineer) said it’s just a matter of weighing what the impact would be on people the other 23 hours of the day and really we only use the crosswalk for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon,” Flint said. Flint’s approach to promoting safety has been to send alert messages home to parents about proper conduct when picking up or dropping off their children. Flint said she doesn’t mind reiterating the rules to people for the sake of safety. “I send home Alert Now messages. ‘You know, it’s a good idea to park in a real parking spot,’” Flint said. “We have staff out there that’s reminding people. If anybody has a big concern, I don’t mind at all talking about rules.” Lincoln Way and Foresthill Road Bonnie Lightner of Auburn was particularly peeved earlier this week at the intersection of Lincoln Way and Foresthill Road, where she has noticed problems for awhile. “Beware (of) the Lincoln Way/Foresthill Road intersection. I drive through it daily and am always careful because of the red light runners, especially from Foresthill and eastbound Lincoln Way,” Lightner said. During the incident earlier this week two cars ran a red light as she was moving forward on a green light going in her direction. Lightner worked for the Consolidated Transportation Services Agency, which provided bus rides for seniors. She said hearing crash reports from bus drivers makes her pay extra attention to traffic conditions now. “That’s probably what made me aware,” Lightner said. “I’m not fearful of stuff, but I try to be aware.” CHP weighs in Officer Nico Bonfilio of the Auburn California Highway Patrol, based in Newcastle, said citizens like Lohner and Lightner are smart to pay attention to their surroundings on the road. According to Bonfilio, there have been three crashes reported at the Lincoln Way and Foresthill Road exit this year, but he wouldn’t classify it as a dangerous intersection. “That intersection is very congested and a lot of people there are getting off the freeway and going to Foresthill,” Bonfilio said. “There is a lot of stuff going on in that intersection. I don’t think it’s a dangerous intersection because there isn’t a lot of speed going through.” Bonfilio said during the time immediately before and after school there can be a lot of problems at virtually every school. “I even think there is some sort of school parking lot rage,” Bonfilio said. “You have so many people taking their kids to school and they are acting and driving like crazy.” He reviewed one accident this week where a man left his car parked in a red zone and left to go find his elementary student and a bus hit his vehicle in the meantime. Last year, a mother and her children were hit in a crosswalk on the way to school. He said while they all recovered the entire accident could have been avoided. “Be prepared for the last second change of plans. Like that red light you always catch and you don’t catch it so it takes you a couple of minutes longer,” Bonfilio said. “Slow down. Just kind of take it easy. When they say rush hour in the afternoon, this is like the rush minute. They all need to be in the same spot at the same time.” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com.