A traffic safety constable in Regina is shining a light on issues other than speeding, that continue to plague school zones.
This week, police worked with CAA Saskatchewan to assess safety in two Regina school zones. In less than three hours, they spotted a total of 646 risky behaviours by drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.
Cst. Curtis Warnar has been with the Regina traffic unit for six years and does extensive work reconstructing collisions. He told 980 CJME, a big issue in school zones is unsafe drop-offs and pick-ups.
“If you just stop in the middle of the road and let your kid out, especially with the snow we had, someone may not see those kids crossing the street,” Warnar said, adding seasonal changes in daylight hours compound the problem.
“As a driver, you have expectations when you’re on the road. When you’re driving through a school zone, obviously you’re not expecting kids to dart out — but it may happen.”
In the CAA assessment, dozens of parents were observed using no stopping and no parking zones during peak hours to collect their children.
In that same time, 40 people were seen either not using a designated crosswalk or waiting for the lights before walking.
“You may have to walk an extra half a block, but use the crosswalks,” Warnar urged.
“The biggest thing as a pedestrian is wait until traffic is completely stopped and they recognize you because we have too many drivers driving distracted or not paying attention.”
CAA recorded 31 drivers not stopping for crosswalks in use, and 57 failing to stop properly at stop signs.
“The biggest thing is just follow the rules. You’re asking your kids to do that when they come to school, as adults and as parents, we need to be doing that as well,” Warnar said.
The constable noted his biggest fear — as a police officer and parent — is learning that a driver, even one going the speed limit in a school zone, is distracted or zoned out.
“You’re driving a vehicle that weighs between 2,000 and 5,000 pounds and it’s a killing machine,” Warnar said.
“You’re driving that and you’re just not paying attention to anything going on in the roadway? That’s terrifying.”
He noted with more people living and coming into the city, traffic patterns and behaviours have changed as well.
“A lot of drivers are just driving how they want and just disobeying the traffic laws and are upset when they’re held accountable for their actions,” he said.
As for why some people are still not getting the message, Warnar said parallels could be made with impaired and distracted driving.
“People have that mentality of, ‘It’s not going to happen to me.’ And until it happens to someone in their inner circle — where it’s either them, a loved one or someone they care about — they just don’t get the message.”
The constable said measures like the CAA School Zone Safety Assessment Tool allow for agencies to focus on prevention, rather than only being reactive.