Classes are back in session Wednesday and that means more kids will be out in full force on city streets walking, riding or skateboarding to and from school. It also means drivers should expect the unexpected and slow down whenever they see kids.
After a two-month summer break, school buses will be back on the roads. Bob Jackson, assistant manager for Diversified Transport, which provides school bus service for more than 4,500 students in School District 57, says too many drivers ignore the flashing lights of school buses stopped for kids and will try to pass them instead of waiting, needlessly putting young lives at stake.
"It's amazing that when you're loading and unloading kids, people will drive right by, and it's so incredibly dangerous to do that," said Jackson. "But the [bus] drivers are trained so if they see a car that looks like it's going to go by they hold the kids back."
The penalty for passing a school bus that is displaying its flashing red lights is $167 and three points on your driving record. Prince George RCMP traffic officers will be out in full force this morning watching for driver infractions. Drivers are required to stop until the students have been loaded or unloaded and bus driver has disengaged the warning lights.
During September, police will conduct awareness and no-tolerance enforcement campaigns to help convince bad or inattentive drivers to change their habits. School zones are in effect every day when schools are open, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the speed limit is 30 kilometres per hour, unless otherwise posted. It takes the average vehicle 13 metres to come to a complete stop when traveling at 30 km/hr, and that stopping distance increases to 27 metres when traveling at 50 km/hr. Fines for driving faster than the school zone limit start at $196 and another three-point penalty. Failure to stop for a pedestrian and/or passing another vehicle stopped for a pedestrian carries an equal fine and point penalty.
Some schools, such as Quinson elementary, hire crossing guards to assist students as they approach roads. The fine for failing to obey a crossing guard is $167.
"The safety of children in Prince George is not only the responsibility of their parents but the responsibility of every driver on our roads," said acting Sgt. Wayne Connell, of the Prince George RCMP municipal traffic services section. "The police have an obligation to ensure drivers are doing their part."
Drivers are encouraged to plan ahead and allow for extra time to get through school zones and pay particular attention to kids near crosswalks or intersections. If a vehicle in an adjacent lane stops or slows down, follow suit and make sure nobody is crossing before you proceed. Always yield to pedestrians and when dropping off kids at school make sure they exit the vehicle on the sidewalk side. Don't stop in the traffic lane and hurry your kids out of the car.
The RCMP also has some safety tips for students:
n Use only designated road crossing points and follow all traffic signals.
n Remove headphones when crossing roads and make sure all traffic has stopped before you cross.
n Drivers in the middle lanes sometimes can't see crossing pedestrians. Make eye contact with drivers before stepping out in a crosswalk.
n Now that daylight hours are decreasing, dress in bright colours, especially if cycling or skateboarding on roadways to school.
n Always walk on sidewalks and if none are present, walk on the shoulder of the road facing oncoming traffic to warn of approaching dangers.
n Walk along well-lit routes away from busy traffic if possible and always be aware of your surroundings.