Drivers beware: ‘No left turn’

Hank Shapiro and Colm Slevin

On Oct. 28, “no left turn” signs were placed at the intersections of Rahway Ave. and West Grove St. in front of EIS as well as on the corner of Rahway Ave. and Dorian Rd. in front of WHS. It is now prohibited to make a left turn from 7:00 to 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. during peak pick-up and drop-off times on school days, in order to lighten traffic.

Photo by Zach Rever

When you don’t have a police officer standing [in the intersection] who can wave cars through stop signs, you get traffic backups. The no left turn is designed to facilitate traffic flow,” said Westfield Police Chief Christopher Battiloro in an interview with Hi’s Eye. “A lot of cars will hold up traffic on Dorian and Rahway looking to make a left-hand turn, and there is not enough room to go around that car.”

The no-left-turn rule follows a change from the beginning of the school year in which crossing guards would no longer be allowed to direct traffic under National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices rules. WHS Crossing Guard Mary Anne Belford who works at the intersection of Dorian Ave. and Trinity Pl. said, “[These changes] are making a difference in my post as well as everyone else’s here. But the purpose of changing the traffic patterns was to keep the crossing guards out of the street, therefore out of danger. So, they’re impacting my post, but in a positive way.”

There was little notice that these new regulations were coming; the WPD sent out a Nixle text-message alert on Oct. 28, the same day the signs were put up. WHS School Resource Officer Ricardo Johnson said, “The new regulations have been difficult to manage because of the short notice, but I think we will be better off in the future once people are used to the new signs because there will be less traffic, and kids will be more safe.”

The signs have sparked some controversy within the town. “[The signs] make me frustrated because I forget whenever I am coming home from school,” said WHS senior Giavanna Schifando. “I wait trying to make a left turn, and then I get to the front of the line, and I can’t make it anymore. I have to go out of my way to get home.”

However, some feel like these changes are needed. “Overall, this will be beneficial,” expressed Johnson. “Parents are annoyed right now because they are not used to it, but their kids will get to school safer, and the town will benefit in general.”

The no-left-turn rule is an ordinance that was proposed by the Public Safety Committee, whose members include Battiloro, the Fire Chief, the Town Administrator, the Town Engineer, Town Council members and a traffic safety consultant. Another proposal to lighten up traffic surrounding the schools was making those intersections four-way stops, which may be the next step if the no left turn rule is not followed or does not lighten traffic enough.

Battiloro seems to believe that these new rules are working to lighten the traffic surrounding the schools; however, it is up to the town to decide if the no-left-turn rules are going to stay for good.