New stop sign adds to campus and traffic safety

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Over the past few months, a new stop sign at the intersection of West Silverwood and Wellington Drive, along with a new gate within the Granite Bay High School parking lot, have been added in order to increase the safety of not only students, but also pedestrians.

Due to a record of pedestrian and vehicular accidents at the intersection, the West Silverwood neighborhood and the high school administration met with County officials over a two year period to discuss possible solutions.

According to Assistant Principal Dave Vujovich, a parent of a current GBHS student was hit last year at this intersection.

“I don’t know if this was the final straw, but there was a woman hit last year at Back to School Night in January crossing the street to come over,” Vujovich said.

Bill Hatch, one of the Board of Directors of West Silverwood in 2014 who started the push for the stop sign, said he believed the stop sign was necessary to increase the safeness of the community.

“The stop sign adds considerably to the safety of the pedestrians, organizes the left turn movements into the high school and West Silverwood, and significantly reduces the speeds in the ½ mile stretch right in front of the high school,” Hatch said.

According to Hatch, the process involved many meetings between the neighborhood representatives, high school administration, County Supervisor Uhler’s office and the Placer County highway department staff. More than ten meetings occurred over two years, including two public meetings with the Granite Bay Municipal Advisory Council, before the County Board of Supervisors voted to approve the installation of the stop sign.

Assistant Principal Brian McNulty gave his part in listening, giving input and being the representative for the school district in some of those meetings.

“This has been a fight for those homeowners to have the the ability to have free access in and out of their property,” McNulty said “The fact that they live across the street from a school compounds it.”

Since the stop sign was put in, several residents within West Silverwood have been satisfied with the results.

“I am very pleased that the stop sign finally went in,” current resident Denise McPhail said. “There were many times that I crossed the street in the crosswalk and it was like a game of frogger. Cars did not stop for me even if I was in the crosswalk and half way across the street – the cars would drive past me, just a few feet away. Ironically, if I jaywalked, drivers were more apt to stop for me.”

Using the exit from West Silverwood had become very dangerous for residents living within the neighborhood. But now with the stop sign, the traffic is organized, slowed and rational turning movements into and out of the high school and West Silverwood can occur.

“We all feel much safer now using the entry (and) we have also noticed that the traffic entering and exiting the high school lot from the north is much more rational and safer,” Hatch said. “Before the stop sign, people exiting the high school lot going north (right turn out) were an added conflict for someone leaving West Silverwood and turning north (left turn out). We never knew if the roadway was clear or not because those turns from the high school were often very fast, and did not stop.”

Even though the stop sign is a great and positive impact to the safety of the community, McPhail wishes that the process to put in the stop sign would have gone quicker in order to prevent previous accidents.

“Silverwood residents were happy that the stop sign was finally installed (and approved by the county),” McPhail said. “Obviously we would have liked the sign to have gone in much early so that one of our residents may not have been hit by a car at Back to School Night January 2014.”

Hatch also believes that student drivers benefit from slower speeds and the “keep clear” zone at the parking lot entry which have both reduced potential for vehicle collisions at the intersection.

“While there was considerable discussion about potential impacts to ‘rush hour’ high school traffic, the facts are the traffic during ‘rush hour’ has always been gridlock, (which) has not changed, nor is it worse,” Hatch said. “Given the important messages on the marquee that are directed to students, student drivers are now required to stop when they might be trying to read marquee messages, make turns and drive at the same time. That is a huge step toward a safer driving situation for students.”

While the stop sign was pushed through by the county, the school district decided to add in the new gate in the parking lot. This decision was made due to complaints that people were utilizing the parking lot after hours and were performing acts of unlawful, dangerous activity and liability of the school district.

“Probably almost as long as the stop sign, we have been getting reports…typically on weekends or non-school nights that there have been people driving recklessly in the parking lot,” Vujovich said. “The neighbor that lives on the corner and looks back onto the parking lot has even sent videos to the county sheriff and us saying that they are going to get hurt.”

In order to prevent these actions from happening again, the school district put cameras in the parking lot that were supposed to capture pictures of the license plates of the cars. The cameras were always on, but were only monitored after around 5 p.m. on Fridays to around 5 a.m. on Mondays until the custodian first arrived at school. Because these wouldn’t produce clear pictures of the license plates, the district pulled these out.

The next alternative, that multiple people mentioned, was to add in a gate.

“Lets say there is nothing happening on a Friday night, when the custodian leaves, they close that off so nobody would get in that side of the parking lot,” Vujovich said. “It is closed on weekends and it will be closed during spring break. The sign says one hour after the last event, so if they get stuck in there, there will be a number for them to call.”

Once in a while, police cars park in the parking lot to make sure that there is no mischief going on.

“There’s other places to go,” Vujovich said. “It’s not just kids, it’s also young adults, but it’s actually illegal to loiter around a school campus after hours. We have had people get hurt in there. It’s just like the SPL (Safeway parking lot), it just isn’t a good place to hang out.”

McPhail didn’t know about the new gate until it was installed. Since the gate was installed, McPhail has disliked it due to its inconvenience.

“The GBHS parking lot is used by many different organizations throughout the year,” McPhail said.

“These organizations have to pay to use the facilities and I have no doubt that there will be occasions when someone will not have a key to open up the gate resulting in the streets full of cars causing more issues. Numerous students have had their initial driving experience with their parents in the GBHS parking lot. It is a good open space and easy to practice driving. If anyone had asked my opinion I was have said no to the new gate.”

According to Vujovich, for the safety and security of the campus, he hopes that the school eventually gets more security cameras that are able to capture the footage of anybody coming on and off the campus, whether they are students at GBHS or not. This would therefore help decrease the amount of vandalism at the school and reduce the amount of people injured within the parking lot.

Even though some students might not be happy with the new gate, the decision has been made to put it in.

“A lot of the time these decisions are unpopular,” McNulty said. “But we have to make decisions first and foremost on the safety of the students.”

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