Cops keeping close eye on school zones as students return

Traffic safety spotlight for September is school zone safety

Herald file photo

September means a return to school — and a return to school zones.

While school zones in Prince Albert became effective last Tuesday, SGI is working with its provincial partners to really hammer the message home.

The traffic safety spotlight for September is school zone safety, meaning police forces across the province will be paying extra close attention to ensure drivers, kids and parents are safe as students return to their classrooms for the first time since March.

“Keeping our kids safe is top of mind for everyone right now,” said Penny McCune, Chief Operating Officer of the Auto Fund. “We expect more traffic – both vehicular and pedestrian — near school zones so we’re giving drivers a refresher on what to do to help them navigate those bustling school zones safely.”   

SGI went so far as to release a “study guide” for school zones.

They’re reminding residents to:

Slow down to the posted speed limit (in Prince Albert, that’s 30 km/h). Going just 20 km/h over the posted limit in a school zone can net you a $310 ticket and three demerit points. The faster you‘re going, the more the ticket will cost.

“More importantly, though, slowing down keeps kids in school zones safe, because it gives drivers more time to react if something unexpected happens,” SGI said.

“The faster a car is going, the less time a driver has to stop and avoid a collision. If a collision with a pedestrian or cyclist does occur, the chances of serious injury or death increases significantly if the vehicle is travelling at higher speeds.” 

Be careful around school buses that are unloading and loading. Passing motorists are the single biggest threat to children as they enter or leave a school bus, SGI said, advising drivers to avoid bus loading zones whenever possible. If you can’t, obey all signs and signals, and watch for kids crossing the street to get to or from their bus.

If a bus is slowing or stopped with amber lights flashing, reduce your speed and ensure it’s safe before proceeding.

If a bus is stopped with red lights flashing and stop arm extended, you must come to a complete stop and wait until the lights stop and arm is pulled back before proceeding. Ignoring school bus safety lights can result in a $360 ticket and four demerits.

Obey crossing guards and pedestrian lights. Obeying crossing guards is not optional. All school crossing guards are legally permitted to stop traffic to help children crossing the street. You must come to a complete stop and remain stopped until everyone is off the road, or face a $230 ticket.

Watch out for jaywalkers — kids don’t always pay attention to crossing when and where they are supposed to, especially if they’re excited to see their friends and teachers in a school setting fo the first time since March.

Drop your kids off on the same side of the street as the school, to minimize the risk of being hit by passing vehicles. 

Avoid distractions. School zones during drop-off and pick-up times can become very congested and make it even more difficult to identify hazards. If that’s not enough of a reason, the province’s new, tougher distracted driving laws mean a ticket costs $580 for a first offence, plus four demerit points.

Don’t park in ‘no stopping zones’, not even for just a minute, as keeping the areas free of vehicles is the best way to maintain visibility for other motorists.

Avoid U-turns.

In Prince Albert, U-turns are now banned in school zones and executing one can cost you $100.

“The best way to keep children safe in a school zone is to maximize visibility, ensuring that each child can see and be seen by drivers in the area,” the city said in a press release last week.

“If a vehicle is performing a U-turn, children who are walking, running and playing in the area may not anticipate the change in direction. Similarly, as a driver is performing U-turn, blind spots change and the driver may not be able to see what is happening behind the vehicle.”

Also in Prince Albert, some school zones have a new and improved look to enhance safety even further.

One such example is in front of Riverside School in Midtown. The city has added a raised sidewalk and a flashing speed sign that alerts drivers when their speed exceeds 30 km/h.

Traffic calming projects, including raised crosswalks, have also been installed by Arthur Pechey, King George, Princess Margaret, Vincent Massey and St. Anne’s School. The city received $43,364.70 from the SGI Traffic Safety Fund for the improvements. 

The city topped up the funding so that an even $50,000 was spent on school zone traffic calming. The projects were due to be completed for this year’s September return to the classroom.