An effort to beef up rules for motorists traveling through school zones has died, and Salt Lake County Commissioner Randy Horiuchi believes school districts are to blame.
But school districts say they just don't have the money to pay costs traditionally borne by cities and counties.Horiuchi said Monday school districts are afraid of paying for crossing guards - a cost now handled by the county and cities. A bill that failed to make it through the state Legislature might have made districts share the cost.
"I think it was the principle that really irked them," Horiuchi said of the districts. "It was the idea that for the first time in history they would have to take some responsibility for traffic safety."
But school districts said they don't want to take money away from teachers and students to pay for crossing guards.
"Traditionally, it's been the county's responsibility to handle flashing lights and crossing guards. Our emphasis is on education," said Patty Dahl, spokeswoman for Jordan School District. "Street concerns have to resort back to counties and cities unless there is some new source of funding for school districts.
"We can't use money earmarked for teachers, materials and text books to pay for traffic guards," she said.
Ron Stephens, superintendent of Murray School District, agreed.
"I don't have any quarrel with people who want to see more crossing guards in place. Mature crossing guards are extremely important," he said. "I simply don't believe that this is a school district responsibility. This is logically a public safety concern."
Traffic safety has become a volatile issue in recent years with the deaths and injuries of several students hit by cars in separate incidents. Several communities have appointed committees to study how to make streets safer for students.
In Murray, an hoc committee comprised of residents, school and city officials recently released a study listing the 14 most hazardous walking areas for students.
"Murray School District is presently discussing changing school boundaries and we are working closely with the district to make sure we do have the proper crossings," said Murray Mayor Lynn Pett.
A traffic task force was also established by the Sandy City Council after two Indian Hills Middle School students were hit by a truck on their way to school. The city installed new, larger speed-limit signs and busy street warnings near the intersection at 1300 E. Sanders Road.
At Truman Elementary School, 4639 S. 3200 West - in Granite School District - students, parents, the district and the county joined forces to pay for an elevated walkway after a student was killed.
Horiuchi said the county can't afford to build walkways at every school. "That is a solution that is both costly and reactionary," he said.
The bill would have increased the fines for motorists speeding through school zones. It would have placed flashing lights at every school zone, increased the number of crossing guards and provided training for them.
A school safety committee, composed of officials from throughout the Wasatch Front, recently traveled to Arizona, where officials boast of never having a car kill a child in a school zone. The bill was based on the things Arizona has that Utah officials wanted to copy.