Schools dob in dangerous drivers

HARRY PEARL
Last updated 05:00 22/03/2014
Rototuna Primary School crossing
PETER DRURY/Fairfax NZ
SAFETY FIRST: Rototuna Primary School crossing.

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School principals sick of seeing their pupils' safety threatened at school crossings are dobbing in dangerous drivers to the police.

One school has even published contrite motorists' apologies in its newsletter.

The moves come as Times reporters followed up the newspaper's story last week about near-misses at crossings by monitoring some sites themselves.

It did not take long for reporters to witness some alarming driving behaviour.

The continual carelessness of some drivers has prompted three Hamilton school principals to request a greater police presence to deter offenders.

Nawton Primary School principal Rubina Wheeler said her school dobbed in bad drivers.

"For what we would call dangerous behaviour we record the licence plates and send it off to police.

"Our police education officer, who works with the road patrollers, follows up."

Judy Dixon, principal at Frankton Primary School, said the Massey St school recorded the number plates of bad drivers and passed them on to police, too.

"I don't know if they follow up on that or not, but that's one avenue that we've got for dangerous drivers."

Headmaster at Southwell School Royce Helm said he backed the tactic.

"I'd really support that. In the sense that sometimes people just continually do the same things."

Nawton Primary School has even taken to publishing motorists' apologies in its newsletter, Mrs Wheeler said.

But despite the tough tactics, bad driving around schools was rife when the Waikato Times visited.

On Thomas Rd outside Rototuna Primary School, six incidents within 25 minutes left deputy principal Kylie Morris shaking her head.

Shortly after 8.30am - and not much more than a minute after the patrol had been set up - a middle-aged man at the wheel of a four-wheel-drive barrelled through the crossing while texting.

About 10 minutes later, a Ford Ranger drove straight through a red flag held out by the crossing patrol, which the school uses to warn drivers that the lollipop signs are about to come out.

Both hands were off the wheel - the driver was eating a pie.

"Imagine if we were just putting the signs out and not the flags as a check," Ms Morris said, after another driver ignored the warning flag a few minutes later.

The next morning outside Frankton Primary School, Mrs Dixon watched as the driver of a silver Mitsubishi Galant dropped his child off at the school gate, then lurched into traffic and hooked a U-turn within 7 or 8 metres of the crossing. Massey St was busy and the flashing 40kmh signs that signify a school zone were not working.

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"I think the patrollers are unsung heroes because what a huge responsibility," Mrs Dixon said.

She said older drivers were sometimes confused when they approached school crossings.

"They don't know whether to slow down or stop or what.

"But once those lollipops go out - you stop."

Mrs Dixon, like her contemporaries at Nawton Primary School and Southwell School, said she would love to have a police officer visible at the crossing more often.

"They used to do that for us but we haven't had it for a while.

"But there is so much else going on it is probably not high on their priorities."

Southwell School asked the community constable to come down to the crossing and watch over it - and when they did, it worked.

"When she is on crossing duty," Mr Helm said, "the performance of drivers is markedly different."

Mrs Wheeler said it would be nice to see a greater police presence.

"It's just lending a bit of weight to it and [getting] people thinking this isn't just a good idea, it's actually law."

Despite a number of calls to police yesterday, the Waikato Times did not receive a response to its queries around school road safety.

- Waikato Times

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