Crash and Turn: New Parking Lot Rules Hit Oakton
Increase in accidents sparks parking lot rule change; as of Feb. 7, no more left turns out of Senior Lot
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The line extends deep into the lot, a yellow wall of buses blocking the way as pedestrians crawl past your car in enviable speed. Tired students and angry parents alike wave their fists at the army of Jeeps all-too-excited to cut people off. Even the poor teachers, anxious for their hour-long commute back home, watch in desperation as their car turns into a stationary jail cell.
Tensions mounting, people will do anything to get out of this painful place. And in the case of some drivers, that exit is the quaint left turn lane onto Sutton.
The space is open – the bus driver even waving you forward! – and you wouldn’t dare miss an opportunity to escape. You hit the gas, zip forward, and look to be homefree, on your way out for the weeken-
Over the last 5 years, 41 accidents have occurred on the part of Sutton Road extending towards Blake Lane. Between hundreds of close calls, thousands upon thousands of dollars in damages, and the fortunae avoidance of any serious injuries so far, Oakton has decided to take action on the dangerous exit from the Senior Lot:
Beginning on February 7th, 2017, left turns will no longer be permitted from the exit along the part of Sutton Road extending towards Blake Lane. In the words of Oakton security officer Wally Baranyk, “It’s a safety thing.”
“[While] we expect there to be some backups in the parking lot and for traffic volumes to increase, we believe the additional safety is worth it,” said Baranyk. “We’ve been lucky that there have been no serious injuries yet, and we have got to take action sooner rather than later.”
The sight of a parking lot that is even more backed up than usual is likely not a pretty thought for the hundreds of Oakton students and teachers who park behind the school. However, even in the eyes of students who will have to deal with the additional traffic, the rule change still comes across as a justified way to increase safety.
“I definitely think it’s reasonable,” said senior Avery Vogelzang, a patron of the back lot. “I saw both of the most recent accidents, not as they happened, but the aftermath of each. They were pretty horrific.”
Vogelzang also admits that he doesn’t ever turn left at the exit himself because he “knows how dangerous it is.” Despite facing the admittedly bad traffic which may be exacerbated by the new rule, he admits that the change is “definitely reasonable.”
Sarah Thatcher, a senior who was unfortunately involved in the latest accident, clearly recalls the dangerous of the left-turn lane onto Sutton. Reflecting on her accident, she remembers a split-second experience that ultimately rattled her.
“Honestly, it’s such a blind turn you just kind of have to go for it. People were motioning for me to go, I started to accelerate, and there was a car there; his front slammed into my driver’s side wheel. Neither of us were hurt – but we were honestly shocked.”
As a result of the event, Thatcher also sees the no left-turn rule as a justified change. “So many people have gotten in accidents on Sutton… it’s safer now that people can’t turn left.”
Like many other students, however, she also recognizes concerns about the increased traffic. “It’s safer now that people can’t turn left,” said Thatcher. “But it’s going to be a lot harder for people to get out if they wanted to go that way.”
Even for Thatcher herself, who, since the accident, has driven behind the school to leave Oakton, she “can’t imagine what it’ll be like with half of the Senior Lot going that way too.”
Fortunately, Oakton has already taken some steps to bring order to the new parking fiasco. Aside from putting up a barricade on the left turn lane, Baranyk also mentioned that the school will try to discourage parents (who often contribute largely to the left turn traffic and accident risk) from “picking up their kids along that route.” They will also “encourage more use of school transportation,” and have already put in a request for longer green lights at Blake Lane.
“While the heavy after-school pedestrian traffic will make it hard to keep that light on forever” Baranyk says, “we are doing are best to let our traffic drive out for longer.”
At the end of the day, the new change is a move aimed at increasing safety for Oakton drivers. It is likely that the next school-year will bring even more challenges to parking lot traffic as the building renovations begin, but in the meantime Mr. Baranyk and the Security Office hope that the students can recognize the rule for what it is: “a positive and manageable change for safety.
“It will just require a little more patience.”