FIRST PRIZE — Blake Bakkila
December 11, 2011
“Proactive Over Reactive,” By Blake Bakkila
Less than two months after the tragic tree-falling incident that took the life of Haeyoon Miller, yet another Irvine Avenue accident hits much closer to home. Just steps away from school campus, senior Crystal Morales was struck by an oncoming vehicle, and she is now in medically induced coma with critical injuries. However, the reason I compare the two events is not because of their proximity but because of their aftermaths.
On September 14, Miller was waiting at a stoplight when a 60-foot tree crushed her Hyundai, causing fatal injuries. Seven days later, the city had approved and ordered workers to cut down approximately 100 eucalyptus trees. Despite the speed and efficiency, it was reported that workers who had performed tests on the trees prior to the accident knew that some trees were aged and even infested with bugs. What if the city had approved the tree cutting before Miller’s life was taken? What happened to the idea of being proactive?
Every day, I use the crosswalk on Irvine Avenue to go to and from campus. I try to do all the correct signals, like making eye contact with drivers and putting my hand when crossing. While it is imperative to do this, I can’t help but wonder, why? Why is it that there are marked crosswalks surrounding Newport Harbor and not an actual streetlight? Regrettably, I have complained about the ridiculous speeds of some drivers but have failed to take action on my opinion. However, I cannot grasp the idea that our school district or city will only make preventative decisions following a tragedy like Miller’s or Morales’.
Down the street from NHHS, Mariners Elementary School has a streetlight to help pedestrians safely cross the street. Implemented in 2009, the plan included pedestrian and bicycle signal hardware, a new crosswalk and safety lighting, and ADA handicap ramps, and cost $175,065 in federal funds. While expensive, this has contributed to the safety of many and would undoubtedly protect those at Newport Harbor if the same actions were taken.
Today, I have noticed increased intervention from the NBPD and campus security guards, as they have been helping educate students about properly crossing the street. I commend these officials for their concern, and hope members of the district can have a similar, even more effective response. Making the crosswalk safer will mitigate future accidents involving pedestrians, but taking a more proactive response to other issues will contribute to even fewer local crises.