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Return To School Marks Return To Car Pool Lane Chaos

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RALEIGH, N.C. — It was back to school in Wake, Durham, Johnston and Cumberland counties Monday.

That marked a return to the daily hassles of the car pool lane.

A local safety engineer handed out mixed reviews of the back-to-school traffic flow.

Traffic engineers say each drop-off needs to be between eight and 10 seconds to keep the line flowing smoothly. One that lasts closer to 30 seconds is a definite no-no in the world of smooth school traffic flow.

"They need to be prepared and be ready," said Joel Cranford, who heads the Department of Transportation's school zone safety team, "have their books ready to go and be ready to jump out."

Watching the traffic flow on the first day back to school at Millbrook High, Cranford was concerned about students weaving through parking-lot traffic on foot.

"There are some safety issues that are involved in crossing children across moving vehicles," he said, "and we try to keep away from that kind of thing."

Cranford gave high marks to schools that use two-way radios to match students with incoming cars. He gave schools extra credit for getting students involved in regulating traffic flow.

Cranford said failing grades result when parents try to work around the system.

"Sometimes, they will stop in the road and try to load," he said, "right in the road. It is amazing."

Cranford advises parents to realize that all their moves during drop-off time can impact others. He said if everyone tries to keep the flow going, the car-pool lane could move much better.

According to the DOT, fewer than half of the student population in the Triangle rides the bus. If more students used the buses, Cranford said, many of the car pool lane problems would disappear.

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