Group unites to tackle pedestrian safety at Webster

Concerned parents gathered in Warfield council chambers to open up dialogue regarding crosswalk safety.

The voice of concerned parents at Webster Elementary School has grown louder since the school’s principal, Warfield council and the RCMP are backing their bid to improve crosswalk safety.

The group gathered Wednesday night in council chambers to open up the dialogue between a few members of each party in a casual discussion on curbing drivers from running red lights, talking and texting on cellphones and flying through school zones. The only major player missing was the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

“We’re all united here,” said Coun. Brett Rakuson, who was acting as mayor. “If we maybe come there as more than one organization to say, ‘Look, you have to look really hard and hopefully find some better solutions here.’ Then maybe they’d be open to listening.”

With that, the group has decided to host a similar meeting at a time that suits highway’s schedule.

Rachel Jansen, Webster’s Parent Advisory Council chair, presented some solutions to improving pedestrian safety at the busy crossing. Short-term fixes included painting lines on the road to indicate a safe space for pedestrians to wait before advancing onto the road, painting the crosswalk in Webster colours or ‘school zone, 30 km/hour or Webster School’ on the highway. Other ideas tossed around included grinding rumble strips at the beginning and end of the school zone, larger and more school zone signs, lowering amber lights to sight line and the inclusion of a flashing speed sign, much like the new one at the bottom of the hospital hill in Trail.

Long term solutions, she said, could include a proper four-way vehicle stop light and a meridian or bump out to narrow the approach.

Sgt. Darren Oelke and Const. Sherri Karn of the Trail and Greater District Detachment turned up to show their support.

“We get repeated complaints as well, and, unfortunately, we have so many school zones we have to police and we can’t always be at each and every single one at every single moment,” said Karn. “Sometimes, catching people speeding is like fishing: some days you get lucky and some days you don’t.”

Karn said that rumble strips were effective in rural Alberta, where she used to work.

“I think that would be a very good, low-cost idea for highways to consider,” she added. “It’s a huge shock value, and you cannot go auto pilot if you hit that.”

Principal Brian Stefani said similar problems were shared at Fruitvale Elementary School on Columbia Gardens Road “because it’s a drag strip.” But after securing an Emcon sign that showed drivers’ speed, he noticed an improvement.

“Our problem with the kids at (this) school is we’re telling them stop and make sure the traffic has stopped before you cross,” he said. “They’re doing that and all of a sudden a car pulls through a red light. They’ve done everything right.”

But Sgt. Oelke took note that parents, especially of preschoolers, were choosing to park on the Murray Drive side of the crosswalk, rather than walking further from the parking lot.

“It appeared to be completely convenience because the preschool door is right at the intersection, so I don’t know maybe that’s an option to get out to the parents,” he added.

“Why would you walk your kids across a busy highway if you didn’t have to?”