Save the speeding cameras that save children’s lives

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As a New York City elementary-school principal, I worry about each and every one of my 350 beautiful “babies” (as I affectionately refer to all PS 124 students, no matter their age) getting there safe. Every day as kids enter our wonderful and welcoming school, they walk past a speed camera posted right in front of the school’s front door that opens onto busy 4th Avenue. With that camera, the odds of each of them coming through that door safe and sound are much higher.

It was not always so.

A year before I began as principal, two PS 124 5th graders and best friends, Juan Angel Estrada and Victor Flores, were struck by a truck driver making a quick, inattentive turn from 9th Street while they were walking home from school. They were killed instantly.

Ever since the deaths of Juan and Victor, our school has made street-safety awareness a central part of what we teach every student. Especially for older children who have permission to walk without a parent or guardian, the Vision Zero “Cross This Way” curriculum has helped us teaching our children the safe way to be a defensive pedestrian.

However, the burden for safety cannot be solely on our kids, and our school has also been blessed with a series of changes outside of the school’s walls since that tragic day that have made the school’s neighborhood much safer. Among those changes, a speed hump was added on a side street and Fourth Avenue was narrowed from six lanes to four, making crossings shorter.

After Vision Zero started in 2014, the speed limit along 4th Avenue was lowered from 30 to 25 MPH. The traffic lights were synced so cars would move at the new safer speed limit. Pedestrian head starts also now give families a few extra seconds to cross before cars are allowed to make the turn.

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