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PAXTON — While stationed at the intersection of Pells and Vermilion streets each weekday morning and afternoon, crossing guard Roberta “Cookie” Schneider never has any problems with the 8-to-10-year-old kids she is tasked with keeping safe.
Rather, it is the adults, usually, who are driving to or from work who make her job difficult.
“The kids obey the rules. My children don’t leave my curb until I tell them,” said Schneider, who is in her 13th year working as a crossing guard outside PBL Eastlawn School.
“And there’s a reason I tell them to stay on the curb until I tell them (to walk). For instance, last week, I had a car approaching, and the driver was on their cell phone and had to stop dead (in their tracks).”
The irony of the situation is that the adults, not the children, need to be taught to obey the rules, Schneider said.
“I see more parents go through here with their cell phones than I do teenagers,” she said. “They have their phone up to their ear and talking.”
With a new school year under way, Schneider wants to remind drivers to obey the laws in school zones — in particular, to not use cell phones while driving and to obey the 20-mph posted speed limit on school days when children are present.
In Illinois, it is illegal for drivers to talk on a cell phone while traveling through a highway construction work zone or school zone. Drivers are now also prohibited from emailing, texting or surfing the Internet while driving on all Illinois roadways. Fines start at $75 for either offense, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation’s website.
Schneider notices problems with speeding and cell phone use at her corner every school year.
“People are rushing to work — they’re late — and they don’t slow down,” Schneider said. “It seems a lot of people don’t realize the law says 20 miles per hour when children are present. A lot of them don’t go 20 (mph); they go more than that.”
So far this school year, Schneider estimated, about 60 percent of drivers passing through her intersection are driving too fast — a percentage she expects to see fall once drivers become accustomed to school being in session once again.
“I’m hoping they do better,” she said. “Especially in the morning, they high-ball it.”
Meanwhile, Schneider said she sees drivers using cell phones in the school zone surrounding PBL Eastlawn School “every day.” And most of them are adults.
“Two to three people a day I’ve seen, and there’s probably more — that’s just the ones I’ve seen,” she said.
Schneider said she fortunately has not had any accidents as a result, adding that “I hope I never do either.”
One other problem Schneider has seen is young children not wearing seat belts or sitting in the front seat of a car. Children 12 years old or younger should sit in the back seat, and all should wear seat belts.
“It’s the law,” Schneider said. “Cars have airbags, and the children are little. They could be killed.”
Schneider has been a crossing guard for 33 years, including 20 years in Lansing and 13 in Paxton. She estimated that in Paxton, she helps about 20-25 kids cross the street each morning and about 40 each afternoon. Kids are crossing Pells Street from 7-8 a.m. and around 3:05 p.m.
“I know all the kids’ names,” Schneider said.