School bells are ringing today, meaning clusters of kids will be walking the streets and pathways to neighbourhood schools. Police and conscientious volunteers will also be out today, watching for drivers not obeying the speed limits around schools.
"We're focusing on it for the whole month of September. We hope to do two speed watches per week at least," said Melissa Lang from the Citizens On Patrol group operating the Speed Watch Program. They will have their speed reader signs up at Van Bien and Lac Du Bois schools first, because these facilities are so close to main roads.
"Those are generally busy areas. We want to make the community as aware as possible right away," Lang said.
Trained eyes will also be following school zone drivers to catch sight of people calling or texting while operating a vehicle. Mike Burt from the Citizens On Patrol group said "We have a new separate program called Cell Watch and we will be doing that as well, looking for distracted driving."
Although these volunteers are affiliated with the city's Community Policing office, the RCMP acts independently. They may have members sitting nearby observing drivers who ignore the radar readouts the Speed Watch people display, but they may also be in school zones randomly across the region.
"The beginning of the school year is a time when children are at an increased risk of transportation-related injuries from pedestrian, bicycle, school bus and motor vehicle collisions," said Prince George RCMP spokesman Cpl. Craig Douglass. "With many more children on the road each morning and afternoon, we are asking the driving public to adjust their driving habits and be vigilant."
School zone speed limits are in effect from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on all school days. The speed limit for school zones is 30 km/h, unless otherwise posted. Fines for disobeying the speed limit begin at $196 and go up from there.
"Police will be out conducting enforcement duties in school zones throughout Prince George and surrounding communities" said Sgt. Al Steinhauser in charge of the Prince George RCMP's Municipal Traffic Services Section. "Police have an obligation to protect our children on their way to and from school."
Drivers also need to watch out for the younger children, said Jenna Weldon, proprietor of Forever Young Daycare. Weldon takes the kids in her program out for daily walks in the South Bowl area.
"Way too many drivers don't slow down, they don't move over, they just whiz past," she said. "I always use the sidewalk when there is one, but in the residential areas where a lot of the parks and fields are, no sidewalks exist."
RCMP's Tips for Students:
- Use designated crossing points and follow crossing signals where available;
- Remove headphones from music players when crossing the road;
- When crossing major roads, make sure that all lanes of traffic have stopped before walking across. Often drivers in the middle lanes don't see pedestrians;
- Make eye contact with the drivers before stepping out onto crosswalks;
- Dress to be seen - daylight hours are decreasing, so wear brighter colours or reflective material whenever possible;
- Walk on the sidewalk, or if unavailable, walk on the side of the road facing the traffic;
- Walk well lit routes with less traffic;
- Always be aware of your surroundings.
RCMP's Tips for Drivers:
- Plan ahead, leave earlier to allow yourself extra time through school zones;
- Be alert to children near or around crosswalks and intersections;
- If a vehicle in a different lane slows or stops in front of you, slow down or stop and ensure that no one is on the crosswalk before proceeding;
- Always yield to pedestrians;
- When dropping off children in a school zone, ensure you do so in a safe place where the children can exit onto a side walk. Please don't stop in the travel portion of the road and hurry your children out.