"I am proud that Hempstead is an 'autistic friendly' township."
--Town Supervisor Kate Murray
Supervisor Kate Murray and the good old boys at the Town of Hempstead (the folks who brought you Kiss Me Kate and the ever-popular Murraygram ) never cease to amaze us.
If you thought that life too often imitates farce, then you'll absolutely love the Town's latest foray into the surreal.
Look. We couldn't possibly make these things up -- and believe us, we try!
The Town of Hempstead simply provides such wonderful material -- for bloggers and the likes of Comedy Central.
One can only hope these Town Hallers will soon get their act together, and take it on the road. PLEASE!
And now, a tale of a signpost along the highway, as only the Town of Hempstead could spin it. . .
Town Unveils Long Island's First "Autistic Child Area" Sign:
Traffic Safety Measure Available To Hempstead
Town Supervisor Kate Murray, Town Clerk Mark Bonilla and Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin today unveiled Long Island's first "Autistic Child Area" traffic safety sign in Franklin Square. Joining the town officials at the event were Mrs. Inga Krevatas, the mother of twin daughters who are autistic; representatives from autism advocacy and resource groups, Empowering Long Island's Journey through Autism (ELIJA) and Autism Speaks; administrators and educators from the Franklin Square School District; as well as members of the Franklin Square community.
"Keeping families safe in our neighborhoods is one of the primary obligations of local government," said Murray. "By placing 'Autistic Child Area' signs we are raising the alertness of motorists as they travel on roadways that traverse areas where autistic children live and play."
The town officials explained that parents or guardians of autistic children could request signs be placed in proximity to their homes on town roadways. The town does not have jurisdiction over village and county roadways.
"We invite parents to call the town and request these signs be placed along the roadway in front of their home," stated the Supervisor.
Autism is a neurobiological disorder that affects the way in which its victims relate to others and local surroundings. It also influences the ability to communicate and learn. Murray noted that, as a result, some children with autism do not fully appreciate the dangers associated with car and truck traffic along roadways."
If a parent or guardian of an autistic child is distracted for a moment, the youngster could easily run into the road," stated Murray. "Placing 'Autistic Child Area' traffic signs helps to ensure that the inadvertent actions of a young person do not result in tragedy."
Town officials believe that the "Autistic Child Area" safety sign is the first on Long Island. Members of various autism advocacy groups have said that the sign might even be the first in New York State.
"I am happy that the town was responsive and helped to make my neighborhood safer for my daughters," said Mrs. Krevatas. "I encourage other parents with autistic children to contact Hempstead Town."
"It's really gratifying when government and neighbors work together to address genuine areas of concern," concluded Murray. "I am proud that Hempstead is an 'autistic friendly' township."
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No slight here or political incorrectness as concerns autisim or the plight of the austistic and their families. Just another "would you believe" about America's largest township, where lip service and, apparently, trivial (though well-intentioned) signs, trump the real issues that impact significantly upon our quality of life.
Will the Town's new signs make a difference? Well, as one admirer of our posts put it, "People don't know what the word STOP means. Do you think they are going to know what an Autistic Child is?"
Independent studies, the Federal Highway Administration, and most states and municipalities, have concluded that, more often than not, such signs are "seldom effective, and usually unnecessary and confusing."
We agree. Aparently, this information has yet to catch up with officials at the Town of Hempstead.
In fact, a study undertaken by the Technology Transfer Center at the University of New Hampshire found that:
-The Children at Play sign has little effect on driver behavior, which is seldom the cause of accidents. The NCHRP study reported that nearly 80 percent of the collisions involving children resulted from an unsafe or illegal act by the child. From that study, an ITE Traffic Control Devices Handbook author concluded that no traffic control device could be expected to protect a child.
-Signs give parents and children a false sense of security. By relying on the sign, parents might monitor their children less closely. Children might interpret the sign to mean they can play in the street. Thus, a Children at Play sign can contribute to the very accidents parents seek to avoid.
-One Children at Play sign can lead to many such signs throughout a town. Nearly every block has children living on it. As stated in the MUTCD, "The use of warning signs should be kept to a minimum as the unnecessary use of warning signs tends to breed disrespect for all signs."
-Installing a Children at Play sign in response to a citizen’s request is based on political reasons rather than on sound engineering judgment.
-Signs need to be maintained. They are expensive to purchase, install, and inspect.
-Because they are confusing and fail to meet any recognized criteria for good signing, placing Children at Play signs can open a municipality to tort liability claims.
While we applaud the Town's concern for the welfare of its children -- especially those children who are in some way challenged -- upon review it becomes all too clear that the motivation for the Town of Hempstead's Austistic Child Area sign in Franklin Square was based more upon an opportunity for political gain rather than community stewardship.
As for the endorsement -- and, perhaps, unwitting participation -- of recognized organizations such as Autism Speaks and ELIJA, well, that tug at the emotional heart strings is most difficult to ignore.
Who said that Long Island's premier quality of life watchdog group doesn't set the pace?
Other oddball signs spotted about town: Blind Person Training Area, posted along Hempstead Turnpike in the Village of Hempstead; Dip In Road (a mobile sign, seen wherever a local elected official deigns to cross the street mid-block in front of moving traffic).
Can a sign for "ADD Child Area" (or, at Town Hall, "Adult ADD Area") be far behind?
To learn more about autism and what you can do to support the cause for treatment and a cure, visit www.autism-society.org/ and www.kylestreehouse.org/.
To get involved locally, visit www.autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks and the National Association for Autism Research will sponsor the 7th Annual Long Island Walk for Autism Research at Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh on Sunday, October 22, 2006.
To request a sign -- any sign -- on your street, call Supervisor Kate Murray's Hotline at 516-489-6000. Tell them The Community Alliance sent you!