School zone safety to be strictly enforced
Simon Jottey has seen it all too often.
It’s early afternoon. A parent drives slowly along the street in front of her child’s school.
Traffic behind her comes to a crawl.
She sees her child on the sidewalk on the other side of the street. She shouts to him.
“Come on! Come on!” she calls.
As the child crosses the street, the parent opens the passenger door behind her. Vehicles behind hers cannot overtake, and the child in the middle of the road slows traffic going in the opposite direction.
More often than not, the parent will pull away from the curb before her child has secured the safety belt.
By her action, the mother, and many fathers and caregivers like her, is not only putting her child in peril by encouraging him to jaywalk, she is creating a dangerous situation for others, Jottey said.
Jottey is a traffic enforcement officer with the Township, and now that children are back in school he will join RCMP officers to discourage unsafe driving habits in school zones all over Langley.
As a traffic enforcement officer, he is acutely aware of parents who are in a big rush to get their children to school in the morning, and to their activities in the afternoon.
“Everyone is in a rush,” Jottey said.
“It’s only their child they are picking up. They’re not looking at the whole picture of other children walking to and from school, biking, the weather and road conditions,” he said.
He has also heard parents loudly goad him to ticket offenders — knowing very well that those same hecklers would make excuses if they were found doing the same thing.
“It’s not about ‘getting caught’ or being embarrassed. It’s not about making excuses,” Jottey said.
“The rules are there to prevent people from getting hurt. At elementary schools, children are five to 13 years old.
“It doesn’t take much to hit a child and knock him over. Compare the size of any vehicle to a little kid.”
In September, Township bylaw enforcement officers and the Langley RCMP will be issuing verbal warnings and giving tickets to drivers who disobey parking and speeding laws in school zones.
While parents and other drivers are busy and in a rush, they need to think about what is at stake and pay attention, because a vehicle can do an awful lot of damage to a human being.
“Nobody wants to see an accident happen to a young family,” Jottey said, noting that in a split second one poor decision can cause a lifetime of grief.
He has often seen drivers waiting in school zones with their vehicle running and in gear, and their foot on the brake, surrounded by dozens of little children.
It is also common to find motorists parked “only for a minute” on crosswalks, at curbs with yellow lines, or in no parking or stopping zones — areas that must be kept clear to allow pedestrians safe access or because visibility is limited.
Even more hazardous is when drivers panic and take off when they realize bylaw enforcement is approaching.
“That is the worst thing you can do,” Jottey said.
“It is so unsafe for the children inside the car and for everyone around you.”
In some cases, enforcement officers only want to issue a verbal warning, but drivers who react in a dangerous manner can expect that talk to escalate into a ticket. And tickets can be mailed to offenders – they don’t have to be issued on the spot.
“Don’t think you got away with it,” said Jottey.
“The laws are there for a reason: To protect children and drivers alike.”
That lesson may be driven home with fines. Bylaw officers can issue tickets of up to $50 for school zone parking infractions and the RCMP can fine drivers between $196 to $253 for speeding in a school zone or $368 for driving without due care and attention.