There’s a lot more to school zone safety than just speeding drivers.
This week, CAA Saskatchewan conducted its first assessments at two Regina elementary schools.
CAA volunteers, along with school staff and Regina police, observed and tracked risky behaviour by drivers, pedestrians and cyclists during a morning and afternoon rush.
“Everything from no stopping, no parking zones, a lot of stopping violations, speeding,” said Christine Niemczyk with CAA Saskatchewan.
The assessment also tracked specific driving distractions including eating, drinking, smoking, grooming, texting and talking.
They spotted 194 infractions outside St. Francis Community School on Mikkelson Drive Tuesday between 2:30-3:40 p.m. The next morning, they counted 452 violations at Judge Bryant School on Dewdney Avenue from 7:30-9 a.m.
At St. Francis, 54 people failed to properly stop at stop signs while 42 were caught speeding between 41 km/h to 58 km/h. Twenty pedestrians were spotted jay-walking.
“It’s alarming to us, especially as we end the day and kids are excited to get home,” said David Magnusson, superintendent for Regina Catholic Schools.
Magnusson noted that although they chose St. Francis, every school in the division faces challenges regarding school zone safety.
“School zones are quite small and there isn’t a lot of place to park and we would encourage our families to park a block away and walk,” he said.
“Everyone is trying to get as close as they can to the school doors and that’s not always safe.”
At Judge Bryant School, 74 drivers used the staff lot to drop off students, while 40 used an improper street or lane. On the pedestrian side, 23 people failed to look both ways before crossing, while others didn’t wait for crosswalk lights.
Mike Walter, the deputy director of Regina Public Schools, said he’s surprised and concerned by the number of infractions in such a short timespan.
“We saw people on their cell phones, we saw people eating food, doing make-up — we saw everything,” Walter said.
“My concern is that the child who is not paying attention and chooses to jump out into traffic, what are we doing as adults to mitigate that?”
Walter said they’ve heard concerns for years about what goes on in front of schools, especially regarding parents dropping kids off in a no-stopping area.
“They’re still choosing to drop them off there because it’s more convenient for their children to walk half a block to school, rather than a block and a half,” Walter said, adding the take-home message is simple.
“Obey the laws — park where you’re supposed to park, drive the speed limit, pay attention.”
Regina Police Chief Evan Bray also pointed out the risks involved with drivers and pedestrians — often students — ignoring rules.
“Sometimes, in the effort to save time, (parents) are really putting their children more at risk than if they would just take the extra time, park a little further away, use a proper crosswalk,” Bray said Wednesday.
“This is not a shaming exercise, this is an open dialogue that we’re hoping to have … about safety concerns that exist in our neighbourhoods,” Bray said.
Cyclists were also looked at for wearing helmets, signalling intentions and dismounting before crossing the street. In total, there were 30 cycling infractions noted between the two schools.
CAA stated its School Zone Safety Assessment Tool is a pilot project they hope to see expanded throughout Saskatchewan.