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COLUMN: Immunity for parents braving the school drop-off line

By: ML CAVANAUGH
March 5, 2018 Updated: March 5, 2018 at 4:05 am
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I have a confession to make. When I drop my daughter off at school, I break the law. Not always. But sometimes.

In my defense, like all parents, I know kids are our future. And if they don't get to school, there will be no future. For any of us. So no impediment must ever hold back a parent's ability to transport their child to school. A parent driving a child to school is a sacred social event, like a funeral procession or pro sports championship parade, and nothing should hinder its execution or progress. Even laws.

For the thousands of parents in the Pikes Peak region that brave this stress-inducing event to drop their kids off at school, it's time to organize and demand that all parents be granted the right to drop-off their children without fear of legal infraction. These parents should get the same immunity we customarily extend to diplomats.

In particular, there are several common parental maneuvers, vital to a successful drop-off or pickup, that are currently on the books as traffic violations. When executed by a parent, at certain times, within two blocks of a school - these maneuvers should be decriminalized.

The most common trick in the parent drop-off handbook is parking illegally. This includes extending a car's front or back end well into colored curb territory, parking inappropriately in a space designated for an electric vehicle, or, in extreme cases, even a handicapped spot. Especially when the duration is intended for a short-term period, like 10 or 15 minutes, it's really more like borrowing anyways, and so this should be made legal for parents. This includes non-payment for parking meters; that quarter or dollar lost in parking fees is more than made up for by the precious additional minutes a child is being educated. A society as great as ours must always put children ahead of some arbitrary "bottom line."

The second parent move is the flashers-in-the-street maneuver. This is handy when you arrive at the school just as your child is exiting the building, and you really don't want to park before pickup. Simply drive to the front entrance of the school, and, in the middle of the street, put your flashers on and leave the car in the road while you extract your child from the school's sidewalk. Sure, those cars behind will stack up five-, six-, or seven-deep, but you will have cut your out-of-car time in half. This time-honored pickup tradition should be made legal.

Moving violations of all sorts should disappear for parents. "No Left Turn," "One Way," or "Stop" should not apply to the vehicle bearing parent and child near a school. Speeding is included here, and the closer a parent vehicle is to school start time should increase the allowable severity of the moving violation. With five minutes to the bell, for instance, they might be allowed to double the speed limit, but with only a minute until class begins, that final approach should be like the no-limit German Autobahn.

"But you can't allow that; it'd be chaos!" a few will undoubtedly shout. Those sanctimonious yellers would clearly not be parents. You see, parenting is a grind, and nothing is grindier than the daily school run. Not the quiet, meditative, talk-radio-or-smooth-jazz, shall-I-pop-into-the-Starbucks-drive-thu-for-a-vanilla-latte experience that our childless peers engage in; I'm talking about the helter-skelter, vein-popping, snot-and-Gogurt-hit-the-back-of-my-neck crazy train that parents endure.

Imagine hopping into a NASA gyroscope trainer with a one-eyed alley cat and a three-legged Chihuahua and you'll know what it's like for a parent getting into a car with two kids. Every day.

These parent drivers are already serving time. Their cars are like rolling jails, only there are no rules governing cleanliness.

So give us parents a break. We're already punished enough; showering us with tickets and warnings only makes hell a little hotter. Let us park where we need to, let us speed when we need to, let us break the law if we need to. You won't regret it - our future depends on it.

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Major ML Cavanaugh wrote this, ironically, in thanks for all those that secure and protect our kids at crosswalks and around school grounds every day, especially the parents that follow drop-off and pickup rules. This essay is an unofficial expression of opinion; the views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of West Point, the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or any agency of the U.S. government.

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