MCPS: hire traffic controllers to ensure parking lot safety


Cars sit parked in the Whitman parking lot. The lot is the scene of a minor accident on a near daily basis. Photo by Annabelle Gordon.

By Maddy Frank

As soon as a teenager passes their driver’s license test, they’re released onto the road. Surrounded by experienced drivers who are typically more skilled at applying the breaks quickly and controlling the steering wheel, the new driver will most likely be fine. But put hundreds of those brand new divers together in one parking lot, and maneuvering becomes significantly messier.

In order to increase student safety and manage some of the chaos in the parking lot, MCPS should increase their budget for security officers, allowing high schools to add security officers who can direct traffic within the lot. The schools need someone who can control cars in the morning and afternoon to reduce the risk of accidents.

Students get into about a dozen mild accidents in the parking lot every school year, head of security Cherisse Milliner said. That averages to more than one incident per month of school. Teenage drivers who are less experienced and often in a rush for school aren’t as careful as they could be. Without guidance, students may accidentally forget proper driving rules, like when to yield or stop, and as a result, they end up in dangerous situations as a result. Some don’t even look before pulling out of spots. With a traffic controller directing student drivers entering or exiting the lot, students would be looked after at all times and feel compelled to take fewer risks or and consistently follow driving rules.

A traffic controller would also be able to keep an eye out for potential accidents. This would also put an official on the scene in case any fender-benders happened or a student was parking somewhere they shouldn’t.

This isn’t to say this isn’t also a students responsibility to make the parking lot safer. The accidents, after all, are caused by students. Along with adding a traffic controller, the most important way to prevent these small accidents and reduce chaos in the parking lot is increasing student awareness and always watching the road. But because there’s no way to be certain a student will be able to say alert on their own, a traffic controller would be more of a safety assurance.

Opponents of adding a guard to the lot argue that students must learn proper driving skills through more experience and that a traffic controller prevents students from experiencing real-world driving. However, students driving on the road to and from school are already experiencing the real roads. At school, safety must be a priority. If MCPS increases the budget for security, a traffic controller can help students learn how to park safely so and students can then carry those skills into the rest of their lives. After all, school is supposed to be a place of learning.

But to do this, each high school needs more resources devoted to traffic within the lot itself. To truly protect drivers, Whitman needs a traffic controller to ease the chaos of the parking lot.