By: Diana Bello Aristizábal
Doral’s population has expanded considerably in recent years. This fact has made the City lose a bit its sense of community that it used to have, because many newcomers fail to follow the rules that benefit us all, especially in school zones.
This issue was discussed in the most recent “Coffee with the Community” where some neighbors expressed concern about the behavior shown by residents within school zones that have very clear laws to protect everyone’s safety.
They also talked about the parents and caregivers that don’t follow basic rules inside their vehicles, endangering the life and integrity of the students.
According to the attendees, among whom were police officers and members of schools PTAs who assist during the students’ pick-up and drop-off times, many parents do not use special seats for their children inside the car despite the fact that Florida law requires all children under the age of 5 to be properly restrained in a child restraint device.
These seats or baby carriers for the smallest ones, sold in the main stores of the city, have been approved by the federal government and crash-tested to ensure the safety of minors in the event of an accident.
“When I was working in a preschool I saw many little one’s seat without this chair, with the straps too loose or even without a seat belt,” says Astrid Matos.
Doral Councilor Claudia Mariaca has a similar opinion, who thinks that although people have access to information on traffic laws and she has seen flyers about this matter circulating in school zones, many residents come from countries where the rules are not strictly followed and live under this mentality.
“People only understand when they have to pay. I have seen children in vehicles that are not hold on to anything. What can I say to that parent? Only that this is illegal and if the police see it, he or she can get a fine,” says Mariaca, while she also invites parents to inform local government of school zones where they believe more control is needed.
“We hate giving tickets but I’d rather enforce the law than have someone getting hurt, especially children,” says Doral Police Lt. Martinez.
Another recurring problem is the use of cell phones, which according to the attendees was a problem in which much more emphasis was placed before the pandemic. It should be noted that two years ago a law came into effect that restrict drivers from using their mobile devices in school zones. Violators can face fines and lose points on their licenses.
On the other hand, some people don’t respect the areas authorized to drop off and pick up students, nor do they cross the street in the pedestrian crossing, which paralyzes traffic and can cause an accident.
“I once asked several students about the correct way to cross the street after a child was run over in a school zone. Many answered that the street could be crossed anywhere because drivers always had to stop,” says Claudia Mariaca.
On this regard, Lieutenant Martínez says that there is a lot of indifference towards the needs of others and everyone lives in a hurry. “We have noticed that one of the main problems is that adults leave children in the middle of the street.”
For Isabel Martin, a realtor, and resident of Doral, this happens due to the lack of education. “Parents need to be educated. I believe that 80 percent of what happens to our children is the parents’ fault. Lack of time should not be an excuse.”
Maritza Morales, mother of 3 children, agrees with this opinion, as she says that people sometimes are reckless when they don’t know how to manage time properly. This is when they make prohibited turns, honk for minor things or show aggressive behavior.
“Since the pandemic, people have become much more aggressive,” she says. This statement was agreed by the other attendees who consider it is essential to leave home at least 10 minutes before the usual time in order to be able to overcome any difficulty and avoid speeding up past 15 miles, which is the maximum speed allowed in these areas.
If you see something, say something
One of the things that would help the most restore the sense of community that has been lost in Doral is to report incidents. This is precisely what the police has been telling people to do over the years with campaigns such as ‘If you see something, say something’.
“Our schools are safe, they have resources and responsive administrations in addition to having the presence of Police officers during drop-off and pick-up times. Our job is to help and solve any problem that arises,” says Doral City Sergeant Pablo Correa.
A similar comment was made by Councilor Claudia Mariaca who talked about the importance of having community ambassadors to help end the ‘look the other way’ mentality that some people have. “Our Police are at the service of the community and there is no need to fear them. By reporting a case you may be doing a greater good to a family,” Mariaca states.
The main way to report an incident is through the ‘City of Doral’ app in the ‘report an issue’ section.