The Sooke School District is ringing the bell about a rise in dangerous motorists in school zones, including one incident where a driver told a crossing guard they didn’t have to obey them.
In recent weeks, crossing guards have experienced three near misses in Langford’s Westhills neighbourhood near PEXSISEN Elementary School and Centre Mountain Lellum Middle School, leaving SD62 officials concerned for pedestrian safety.
The crossing guards were always in the crosswalk and had their stop signs out, according to the district. It notes that “in one case, a driver ignored the stop sign and told the crossing guard that they legally did not have to obey the crossing guard.”
For Darlene Hendry, “that’s just wrong.” Her grandchildren go to PEXSISEN, and she says drivers often speed past the Constellation Avenue school.
“The concern is for children, that’s number one,” said Hendry. “People don’t pay attention. They obviously aren’t reading the signs on the road. I’m not saying everyone, but there is concern.”
Kaily Sutherland is a crossing guard for SD62 and says she fears for the students and herself.
“Most people are speeding through, and they’re either not paying attention to the lights, or they’re not stopping. We’ve had people shake their heads at us and say, ‘Nope, not stopping,'” she told CHEK News in an interview.
In one instance, it was a close call: “The car did bump (another crossing guard),” recalled Sutherland. “It’s only a matter of time before one of us gets hit or one of these kids.”
Const. Nancy Saggar, media relations officer with West Shore RCMP, says police have been working with SD62 to have a “proactive presence” at crosswalks in and around schools.
“Both our Traffic Unit and frontline officers regularly attend and enforce traffic laws at school zones on a daily basis,” Saggar told CHEK News in an email. “The challenge is there are way more schools than officers, so we rotate which schools we are enforcing traffic at each day to try and provide equal coverage to the many schools in our jurisdiction.”
She says the RCMP detachment often receives reports of drivers speeding in school zones, prompting officers to enact daily school zone patrols to combat this.
Under B.C.’s Motor Vehicle Act, drivers caught by police failing to yield to a pedestrian in a marked or unmarked crosswalk will be hit with a $167 fine, plus have three demerit points tacked onto their driver’s license. Drivers who disobey a school crossing guard suffer the same consequences, the Act states.
ICBC lists fines and points for traffic offences on its website.
“The RCMP has been working to provide a higher presence in the area to educate motorists on their responsibilities while behind the wheel, including the legal requirement to obey crossing guards,” SD62 said in a news release Wednesday.
The district is reminding drivers to be extra diligent where children may be crossing, especially in school and playground zones. It says drivers should make eye contact with those crossing the road, obey crossing guards, not start driving again until the crosswalk is cleared, stop for all pedestrians, avoid distracted driving, and follow speed limits.
In B.C., the speed limit in school zones is 30 kilometres per hour on school days between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. unless otherwise specified, according to information online.
“We will continue to work with our children, youth and families to educate them on how to safely use crosswalks,” SD62 added in its release. “Our priority is that students, staff and community members arrive safely to their destination, and we hope that motorists will do their part to ensure that happens.”