Westfield resident Greg Kasko again asked the Town Council at Tuesday night's meeting who in Westfield authorized civilian crossing guards to direct traffic through stop signs in the absence of children crossing and what is the specific statute that allows for this.
Kasko has spoken before the Westfield Board of Education and the council previously to ask who has given crossing guards the authority to direct traffic in a law enforcement manner. A father of two, the Westfield resident said he is concerned in light of the accident in which two Edison Intermediate School children were struck by a car in the crosswalk.
At last week's meeting, Town Administrator Jim Gildea referenced Title 39 and stated that while directing traffic is not the crossing guards' main priority, they are able to alleviate some of the traffic caused by crossing students by waving through a handful of vehicles.
Tuesday evening, Kasko said he is still looking for an elected official to point him toward the state law that governs this.
Town attorney Russell Finestein then handed Kasko the following two statutes:
40A:9-154.4. Stations; time period
The chief of police or other chief law enforcement officer of a municipality shall have the right to position school crossing guards on any street or highway within the municipality; provided, however, that such guards may be stationed only when it is necessary to control or direct vehicular or pedestrian traffic during those time periods of a school day when it is necessary to control traffic or during any special event or program involving pedestrian crossings whenever it is deemed to be in the best interests of public safety.
39:4-80.1 Penalty for failure to comply with school crossing guard's signal to stop.
1. A motor vehicle operator who fails to comply with a school crossing guard's signal to stop during those time periods when that guard is duly authorized to control or direct vehicular or pedestrian traffic pursuant to section 4 of P.L.1979, c.82 (C.40A:9-154.4) shall be fined not less than $150 for a first offense. For a subsequent offense, the operator shall be fined not less than $300.
Kasko said he is not referring to either of those but rather to 39:4-144 (see below) as his issue with the guards pertains to their waving cars through stop signs after children have safely crossed through the intersection.
39:4-144. Stop sign/Yield sign
No driver of a vehicle or street car shall enter upon or cross an intersecting street marked with a "stop" sign unless he has first brought his vehicle or street car to a complete stop at a point within 5 feet of the nearest crosswalk or stop line marked upon the pavement at the near side of the intersecting street and shall proceed only after yielding the right of way to all traffic on the intersecting street which is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No driver of a vehicle or street car shall enter upon or cross an intersecting street marked with a "yield right of way" sign without first slowing to a reasonable speed for existing conditions and visibility, stopping if necessary, and the driver shall yield the right of way to all traffic on the intersecting street which is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard; unless, in either case, he is otherwise directed to proceed by a traffic or police officer or traffic control signal, or as provided in section 39:4-145 of this Title.
At the end of the meeting, Mayor Andy Skibitsky told Kasko that residents aren't really concerned about crossing guards directing traffic, but they are concerned about "you secretly taping our crossing guards and perhaps our children at the same time."
That didn't happen, Kasko said from the audience. On his blog The Fact of the Matter Kasko has posted footage of the Westfield Avenue and Park Street/Dorian Road intersection in which it appears a guard is directing traffic through a stop sign without any students in the vicinity.