Pasco to install 32 crosswalk beacons at elementary schools

Students crossing Pasco's streets have the protection of signs, special crosswalks painted on the roadway and crossing guards.

By the end of October, they will have flashing beacon lights too.

Pasco, in cooperation with the Pasco School District, requested and received a $120,000 grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission's Safe Route to School Program.

The grant will cover the cost of 32 bright yellow flashing beacons, which will be installed by Pasco Public Works employees at nine elementary schools.

"We like to be proactive," said Ahmad Qayoumi, Pasco's public works director. "These will make the school crossings more prominent to drivers."

Leslee Caul, spokeswoman for the school district, said, "They're another way to ensure the safety of the kids. The beacons will not replace crossing guards, they're just one more way to make people aware."

The solar-powered beacons will be maintained by the city, Qayoumi said.

"When they reach the end of their lifespan, the district will need to replace them. But that should be years away," he said.

They will be installed at Virgie Robinson, Whittier, Longfellow, Emerson, Robert Frost, Chess, Mark Twain and James McGee elementary schools, as well as the Captain Gray Early Learning Center.

According to the Traffic Safety Commission, pedestrian deaths are the third-leading cause of death for Washington children.

"As far as law enforcement, the lights won't have an impact one way or another," said Capt. Jim Raymond with the Pasco Police Department. "If you're caught speeding, you're getting a ticket. But I hope they'll make people pay more attention in school zones."

Driving a few miles above the posted 20 mph in school zones drastically decreases a driver's ability to stop. According to Pasco police, the stopping distance for a driver going 20 mph is 63 feet when you factor in time for the driver's reaction and the vehicle's deceleration.

That's if all conditions are normal.

"You could be going 10 mph on a sheet of ice and it'll take you 100 feet to stop. Or it can be raining, and if you're going 20 mph, you could hydroplane before stopping," Raymond said. "It's best to be aware when you're in a school zone and watch your speed."