A Warfield mom can often be seen shaking her fist at people driving too fast through a school zone.
Katy Dunsmore’s efforts to slow drivers travelling by Webster Elementary School are at the forefront now as the crossing guard suits up next week for another year on the job.
“We’ve almost been run over a few times,” she recalled.
“We’ll be standing and the light is red and I’ve got my stop sign up and someone will come up the hill just flying right through at 50 or 80 (kilometres) at times.”
Beyond excessive speeding, drivers are distracted by their cell phones, dropping their children off on the highway, and are just plain inconsiderate to the fact that children are crossing.
Sgt. Darren Oelke of the Trail and Greater District Detachment knows all too well what Dunsmore is referring to. He asks drivers to mind the school speed zones and consider the high volume of kids soon to be making their way to and from school.
“We, the local detachment, always patrol school zones, but not to catch speeders, rather to deter people from speeding in these areas and keep our children safe,” he said.
“Often, kids, especially the younger ones, do not know the rules of the road so to speak or the logistics of a 3,000-pound car travelling at 30 km/h.”
School zones are in effect Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. During this time, drivers are required to slow to 30 km/hr and if caught breaking the law can expect a ticket. A fine can be anywhere from $196 to $253 for speeding in a school zone and up to $368 to $483 for excessive speeding over 40 km/h over the posted limit.
There are other offences that can hit the pocketbook: failure to yield to pedestrians (in a crosswalk or at a corner) comes in at $167, disobeying a school guard adds up to $167, and failure to stop for school bus rolls in at $167.
Road safety is a full-time job for Dunsmore, who starts her day at 7:40 a.m. donned in a florescent vest with a stop sign in hand.
She brings out a plastic safety person and a big wooden tiger to alert oncoming motorists that children are playing nearby. Often, her son Logan, 8, will become “mini guard” and tag alongside with a homemade 30-km speed zone sign in hand.
“I’ve had people screech to a stop and say, ‘I’m so sorry’ and I’m like, ‘that’s not good enough,’” she said. “What if I’m not there waving my arms around and there’s just a little kid crossing the street and they’re not paying attention.”
Dunsmore likes to teach safety to the kids crossing, so they know how to look both ways and wait for cars to stop before crossing the street.
Education is key but by now the message should be clear. She attributes most incidents to negligence.
“I don’t know if there is anything we can do to slow them down but a four-way vehicle activated light would be nice,” she said.
She recalls some work done by highways over the years, which include the switchover to timed traffic crosswalks and painting the stoplights yellow to stand out.
Greg Kinnear, road area manager for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, said they’ll be putting up a speed reader board in Warfield for the first week of school and periodically throughout the year.
In B.C., 78 children aged five to 18 are injured in crashes in school or playground zones every year, according to ICBC. Of this number, about 14 children live in the Southern Interior.
Parents are encouraged to review the rules of the road with their children and go over their daily route to and from school.
Tips for drivers:
Every school day, unless otherwise posted, a 30 km/h speed limit is in effect in school zones from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
When you’re dropping off your children in school zones, allow them to exit the car on the side closest to the sidewalk. Never allow a child to cross mid-block.
If a vehicle’s stopped in front of you or in the lane next to you, they may be yielding to a pedestrian, so proceed with caution and be prepared to stop.
Watch for school buses. Vehicles approaching from both directions must stop for school buses when their lights are flashing.
Before getting into your vehicle, walk around it to make sure no small children are hidden from your view. Always look for pedestrians when you’re backing up.