Why I try to avoid the high school parking lot at 3:05 p.m.

April 20, 2009

by Kristen Miller

This column is dedicated to those who don’t want to die at 3:05 p.m. on any given school day.

For the more than three years I’ve worked at the newspaper as a reporter, with one of my beats being the school district, I have purposefully avoided going to the high school/middle school around 3:05 p.m.

If I have to make an appointment, I try to get there either before school lets out or after the traffic settles, mainly so I don’t have to wait at the intersection or wrestle through crazy hallways.

Well, on this particular day I had to bring something out to the high school before the office closed.

I was planning to go around 2:45 p.m. This would allow me just enough time to get out of there before all chaos broke loose.

Things didn’t go as planned and I got caught up at the office with a phone call so didn’t make it out there until just after 3:05 p.m.

Oh my goodness, what a mistake that was!

Driving through the parking lot, my car was almost struck twice by two different vehicles driven by teenagers who, I’m fairly sure, even saw me.

Then, as a pedestrian in the parking lot crosswalk mind you, I was almost run over, by an parent driver nonetheless.

This parent was so close to hitting me I could look down and see the headlight.

Granted this driver wasn’t driving very fast, but I’m pretty sure had I slowed my pace just a bit, I could be collecting some serious insurance money.

Don’t get me wrong, I was a teenager once myself and when that bell rang, I couldn’t wait to get to my locker, pick up my backpack, head to my car, and get out there as fast as I could.

Fortunately, I never hit anyone, but I’m sure there were a few close calls.

I do remember one time hitting a parked car when trying to park my own. I didn’t think it was very funny at the time, – I was quite terrified actually – but at least now I can laugh about it.

I’m not sure if it’s how the parking lot is laid out, or if it’s just the number of cars heading in one direction as quickly as they possibly can that is the problem.

I do know though, that if one doesn’t have to go to the high school/middle school at the end of a school day, it should be avoided at all costs.

I’m not trying to pick on only young, inexperienced drivers, because even adult, experienced drivers make mistakes.

I just think everyone needs a friendly reminder of just how dangerous driving can be.

Remember, it’s not vehicles who kill people, it’s inattentive drivers who kill people.

Driving limitations for teen drivers

Since traffic crashes are the leading killer of Minnesota teens, there were new laws that went into effect August 2008.

According to the Department of Public Safety, the following provisions apply to even those licensed prior to Aug. 1, 2008.

• Nighttime driving limitations. Driving is prohibited from midnight to 5 a.m. up to six months of licensure, with some exemptions including employment, school events, etc. For full exemptions, visit www.dps.state.mn.us.

• Teen passenger limitations. Only one passenger under the age of 20 is permitted, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian for the first six months of licensure and no more than three passengers for the second six months. Passengers under age 20 who are immediate family members are permitted.

• Seat belt use. Drivers and passengers under age 18 must wear a seat belt or be properly secured in a child restraint.

• Cell phone and texting restrictions. It is illegal for drivers under age 18 to use a cell phone, whether hand-held or hands-free – except to call 911 in an emergency.

It is illegal for drivers of all ages to compose, read, or send text messages or access the Internet on a wireless device while on the road.

• Drinking and driving. It is illegal for a person under age 21 to drive after consuming any amount of alcohol. Consequences for this offense include loss of license for at least 30 days and court fines. Violators with a provisional license cannot regain a license until age 18.