Time to fix DHS exit onto State Avenue

The other day, there was a three-car accident on State Avenue next to Dickinson High School.

I don’t remember exactly what day it was, but does that really matter? This happens far too often for it to be news.

Is it time for accidents like this to be a thing of the past?

A little crowdsourcing says it is.

After thinking about that accident and talking with a couple friends about it, I posted a question on Facebook about the dangerousness of the Dickinson High parking lot entrance/exit along State Avenue. I asked what could be done about this spot as heavy traffic along one of the city’s busiest street becomes a bigger issue as Dickinson grows to the west and the school’s enrollment increases.

My post had 43 likes in a span of 24 hours. In Facebook terms, that’s a lot.

The comments I received were pretty one-sided in that people agreed something should be done about the issue that, at the very least, causes traffic snarls for those traveling north between Fairway Street and Empire Road every day from about 3:35-4 p.m. when about 800 kids are aching to get out of that parking lot and off school grounds.

In a town with increasingly difficult traffic situations, few compare to this section of road at that time of day.

State Avenue was the west edge of town when the high school opened in 1968. There wasn’t much to the north either. Naturally, Dickinson has expanded around the school. Our recent population explosion and the growth of housing, recreation, health care and, soon, retail centers to the west of the school have only exacerbates the traffic situation near the school.

So what can the city and the school do?

Completely close the lane and direct all traffic from the main high school parking lot toward Empire Road? Should they not allow cars to exit onto State Avenue or maybe make it a right-turn in, right-turn out lanes, creating two distinct lanes of traffic that would require the installation of a median? Or does the city have to put traffic lights at the intersections of Empire Road and Fairway Street to help alleviate congestion?

City Administrator Shawn Kessel said it could be a combination of any of the above.

Especially, he said, as the new St. Joseph’s Hospital and the eventual construction of the Dickinson Hills Shopping Center to the west of the school stand to cause even greater traffic issues at those intersections and at the high school.

“We anticipate that it’s going to justify the use of signals at that location,” Kessel said, adding a study planned for this summer could show a necessity for installing signals.
However, that kind of work doesn’t happen overnight.

These are things decided at Dickinson City Commission and Dickinson Public School board meetings.

Until some sort of change happens, however, I have a few words of advice for our teenage drivers.

First, stay off the cellphone when you’re leaving the parking lot. And I mean texting and calling. You just spent all day with your buddies. Your girlfriend or boyfriend doesn’t need to see your cute Instagram selfie right this second. And there’s no way you’re in that big of a rush to talk to mom and dad, so don’t blame it on that.

Not to mention, there are more semi trucks traveling on State Avenue these days.

I’d hate to write a story that one of you tried to shoot the gap to get ahead of an oncoming car and forgot about one of those semis coming from the other direction.

Keep in mind, I — just like every other adult, your parents and teachers included — was a teenager once too, and some of us learned the hard way that those driver’s education instructors knew what they were talking about after all.

If nothing else, just be cautious and courteous when you’re trying to get out of the parking lot. I know it can be frustrating sitting there and waiting for a spot to get on the street, but there’s no need to make things worse for everyone by taking a big chance and causing an accident.

Author: Dustin Monke

Former newspaper editor. Now I market the best baked goods and donuts in America. But every once in a while, I write a cool story too.

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