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New traffic lights require renewed diligence

By KBell
Aug. 18, 2010 at 3:18 a.m.
Updated Aug. 21, 2010 at 3:21 a.m.


SAFETY TIPSMaintain a safe distance between cars.

Give yourself plenty of time to get where you're going.

Plan your route to avoid school zones.

Be aware of your surroundings.

Note the lowered speed limits in school zones.

Avoid trying to perform other tasks behind the wheel.

Source: Sgt. Julian Huerta, Victoria Police Department

With school starting Monday, the Victoria Police Department is reminding drivers to take extra caution in school zones, particularly near the new high schools.

Two stoplights have been erected near the new schools - one at the intersection of U.S. Highway 87 and Tropical Drive, the other at Mockingbird Lane and Zac Lentz Parkway/Loop 463.

The lights have been up since Aug. 7, but weren't fully functional until Thursday morning.

"We're not overly concerned, but this is something new for us," Sgt. Julian Huerta said.

The police department will be monitoring traffic flow at the lights over the next few weeks, Huerta said. If the flow is backed up, he said the traffic safety unit would suggest light cycle changes to the Texas Department of Transportation.

Randy Bena, Victoria's area engineer for TxDOT, said his department and the city would also be monitoring the lights Monday.

"We're going to set (stoplight) timings based on the types of situations we've seen out there and based on what we think traffic will be like," Bena said. "Nobody can predict exactly what traffic will be like, so adjustments will be made."

The state was responsible for installing the lights, Bena said, but the department will turn over responsibility for the lights to the city by next week.

In addition to monitoring traffic, Huerta said the police department will be looking for anyone speeding or talking on a cell phone in school zones, just as they do every year.

"The mentality of traffic safety is that every crash is preventable," Huerta said. "That's why we call it a 'crash,' not an 'accident' anymore."

Huerta offered safety tips to those driving through school zones, particularly between the hours of 7 and 8:30 a.m. and 3 and 4 p.m.

"The main thing is to give yourself enough time to get where you're going and pay attention to traffic controls."

Drivers can also plan their routes ahead of time in an effort to avoid school zones, he said.

Huerta said he's mostly concerned with out-of-town traffic coming into Victoria, especially southbound on U.S. Highway 87, where the speed limit is 70 and travelers are not used to having to stop at a light there.

"It's going to be an inconvenience," Huerta said of the new lights, "but keep in mind, as the city grows, so do traffic concerns."

The police department doesn't expect the two high schools to create any new traffic problems, so long as the public remains diligent, Huerta said.

"It may not be a problem because they've taken the population at one high school and split it apart," Huerta said. "It may be a pleasant week."

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