Distracted drivers make school crossings dangerous

LIBBY WILSON
Last updated 05:00 15/03/2014
Waikato Times

Hamilton primary school principal Pat Poland is concerned with bad driver behaviour around school crossings.

 crossing outside Deanwell School.
WARY EYE: Speeding, texting and distracted drivers are a regular sight at the Collins Rd crossing outside Deanwell School. 

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School crossing guards have been told to jump for cover after a spate of near misses in the last week as ignorant drivers speed, text and even dress for work while they race through crossings.

It has got so bad near one Hamilton school that drivers are even scraping blithely past lollipop signs held by children.

A road patroller at Livingstone Ave's Nawton School was nearly hit three times this week, despite following all the teacher-supervised checks, principal Rubina Wheeler said.

"When they [road patrollers] have followed all of those procedures, they've got their lollipops out and a driver's coming towards them at speed - it's difficult for them to be able to get out of the way in time."

As well as the near-misses, schools reported drivers well above the 40kmh limit, texters, and people eating breakfast as they drove through crossings.

Principals are sick of seeing drivers put their students' safety at risk.

"We've had to talk to patrollers this week to say ‘Look, if you don't think they're going to stop, get off the road. Leave the sign, just move'," Mrs Wheeler said.

The school's Livingstone Ave crossing was difficult because it is near a corner and a rise, she said.

But even flashing 40kmh signs, flags, and high visibility road patrol gear didn't make drivers pay enough attention.

"We're in a school zone, so there's no excuse for being inattentive . . . It's driver behaviour that needs to change," Mrs Wheeler said.

"It's disappointing in that they're not parents of the school but obviously they're community members."

Rototuna Primary School principal Mike Sutton had similar issues, especially at the school's Thomas Rd crossing.

"We've had the DP [deputy principal] one day having to . . . pull the child out of the way because the driver went straight through . . . We've had another day where the sign actually scraped right along the side of the car and the driver kept going."

A fortnight ago there were four "drive-throughs" in a week.

All road patrollers received training from police and the teacher judged when the signs went out, he said.

"It's not them [the patrollers] doing it at the last minute. It's the drivers' inattention and speed that are the issue."

A 25-minute road patrol session in Collins Rd last week put driver behaviour on Deanwell School principal Pat Poland's mind too. He spotted five incidents as people drove through the crossing, including a man putting his tie on, a woman putting in an earring, and a woman talking on a phone. "I don't know how the heck they're steering," he said.

"One day someone's going to have their hands off the wheel and lose control hit one of my kids or one of my staff or me. That really concerns me." Texters - who drove straight through with their head down - were an everyday sight, as were speedsters, he said. Few drivers stopped for waiting children behind the lollipop signs.

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SCHOOL ZONE RULES

40kmh limit at busy times (generally start and end of day) Applies to schools, kindergartens, and playcentres Applies within 250m of each side of institution Police strictly enforce a 4kmh tolerance When passing a stationary school bus, reduce speed to 20kmh Source: NZTA, The Official NZ Road Code --------------------

libby.wilson@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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