It’s their way on the highway: Drivers hurrying to school speed past motorists slowing down for kids’ safety

Voices of the Clarion

Posted: Sunday, May 20, 2007

Well, excuse me.

That’s the message conveyed by a vanity license plate on a large sport utility vehicle that roars through town every school day as mom gets her little kiddos speedily to Cook Inlet Academy over on Kalifornsky Beach Road.

I’ve heard of similar aggressive driving behavior near other central Kenai Peninsula schools. This just happens to be the school along my usual route to work.

I drive through Soldotna daily, and after crossing the seemingly permanent, temporary bridge, I head up K-Beach Road past the academy.

Some of the driving I’ve witnessed by people trying to get their kids there is just plain nuts.

Fortunately, some of the folks — like the driver of the big SUV — have license plates giving warning.

The driver races past the Soldotna police station doing at least 45 mph (hint, hint), in the right lane, apparently wanting to be the first one across the single-lane temporary bridge.

Perhaps she is aware that Soldotna police rarely, if ever, use the front door of the cop house. Their squad cars and garage spaces are at the rear of the headquarters building, so they come and go without seeing the speedway out front.

At the last possible moment, somewhere around Trustworthy Hardware, the SUV mom cuts left in front of everyone else who anticipated much earlier that the big orange signs mean the road is going to narrow.

As she zooms off through the construction zone, I notice yet another monster utility vehicle filling my rearview mirror. You guessed it: another parent whisking the youngsters to school.

As I dutifully slow for the 20 mph school zone, I feel certain my rear bumper is going to get crunched by the Cadillac utility vehicle, but the obviously annoyed parent swings into the much faster moving center turn lane for the remainder of the journey to the school parking lot.

It seems ironic that these morning scofflaws ignore the very school speed zone presumably established for the safety of their own kids.

This new war zone comes as a bit of a surprise.

In my many years of driving, I’ve found that one of the craziest places to motor a vehicle is in a Catholic church parking lot right after Sunday Mass. I’m not exactly sure why so many drivers have this madding urge to get the h--- out of there as fast as they can, but I have learned to hang back a few minutes and let them go, lest my little pick-em-up truck gets flattened.

Again, I am blessed that at least one parishioner’s vehicle sports a vanity plate.

When sounded out, this one proclaims the rest of the world is in that person’s way.

What’s with the big rush?

The SUV mom seems to be in the same big hurry nearly every day. I can’t say it always happens because sometimes I take the longer, more scenic route up the Spur Highway.

I assume school starts at about the same time every day. I figure the distance from the home of the driver and her passengers to the school remains constant. Yet every day the driver seems to be running late.

Perhaps the school needs to teach a lesson I learned long ago: It’s just as easy to be consistently five minutes early as it is to be consistently five minutes late.

The students could take that message home or perhaps nonchalantly drop it on the driver’s seat.

I suspect the driver otherwise has good manners. The license plate asks the rest of us to excuse her behavior.

As for the owner of the in-my-way vanity plate ...

Maybe that one needs to pay a little more attention to the Sunday sermon.

Phil Hermanek is a Clarion reporter.

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