Safety for our children’s sake

McMurray Musings Connects

By THERESA WELLS, Connect Columnist

Every year it is the same. As the beginning of the school year approaches local officials send out reminders that school zones are soon to be in effect and school buses will once again be traversing our streets as they collect and drop off our littlest citizens. And every year I witness someone ignoring the school zone, speeding through it as small children mill about, while someone else casually passes the school bus despite the flashing lights and extended stop arm.

I don’t think we are actually so callous as to be targeting children as the school year begins, but our lack of thought and complacency endangers these small lives as we fail to adjust our driving habits to ensure their safety. Accustomed to the higher speed limits, we burn through the schools zones without a care in the world, not truly realizing the risk we pose to the children who are now back in class and on our streets in an increased number.

Despite numerous education campaigns we are still a bit puzzled about the rules on school buses, not because we are negligent, but because we truly don’t seem to understand them.

Despite numerous education campaigns we are still a bit puzzled about the rules on school buses, not because we are negligent, but because we truly don’t seem to understand them.

For the record, the speed limit in school zones is 30 kilometres per hour, which can feel very slow – and it is, because that slow pace allows you more time to respond to a child suddenly darting into traffic. It allows you to be more aware of your surroundings and take them in more fully, identifying potential hazards. Those who zip through at the usual speed – or even worse, higher than legal speeds – are impaired in their ability to respond and react to sudden changes in the situation and imperil the school children in these areas.

My daily route takes me through school zones on a fairly regular basis. I am stunned when I see individuals ignoring the speed limit, and I am one of those who reports errant company drivers to their businesses when I see them speeding in a school zone. I have even been known to follow drivers and tell them (usually kindly) that they have just blown through a school zone. Some respond with genuine remorse, while others respond with genuine anger that anyone would have the audacity to question their driving habits – but in this case I think my behaviour is acceptable, because it truly takes a village in some instances to raise a child.

The safety of the children in our community does not depend solely on their parents to ensure. As citizens we have a responsibility to look out for them too, including ensuring the behaviour of other adults is not posing a risk to them. I am quite unrepentant about doing whatever I can to ensure it, because those little citizens are our future and I have a very real stake in that future, too.

As you read this, we will be into the second week of school, with children settling into their classroom routines, the excitement of the first week behind them and an entire year of education and fun ahead. While they adapt into those new routines so too must we fall back into ours – driving slow in school zones, being alert for school buses and keeping a watchful eye on the little ones as they make their way to and from our local schools. After all, their job as children is to attend school and become strong, confident contributing citizens, and our job is to ensure they are safe in our community. It’s a job we should not take lightly.

– Connect Weekly –