MILLBROOK — As part of a first-time partnership, Peterborough County is teaming up with Cavan Monaghan Township and city police to bring increased traffic enforcement to school zones this fall.
The plan was outlined Wednesday during a press conference at the Millbrook/South Cavan Public School.
“We’ll have extra duty officers at the schools in Cavan Monaghan,” said city police Acting Chief Tim Farquharson.
Farquharson said the boosted enforcement “comes from Cavan Monaghan working with the county to secure the funds to pay officers” who will be stationed at school zones on off-days. “We haven’t done that before,” he added.
Drivers are asked to take extra precaution as school buses return to the roads, including slowing down in school zones, planning to leave early, giving at least one metre’s clearance to cyclists, and stopping for school buses.
Police are also reminding drivers to stop for stopped school buses with flashing lights activated, that speeding in school zones can result in fines and demerit points, to abide by the direction of crossing guards who have the right to stop traffic at crosswalks and that distracted driving can cost up to $3000 in fines, six demerit points and a 30-day licence suspension.
“Distracted driving is our biggest problem. Plain and simple,” Farquharson said.
“It’s everywhere. It’s what concerns us the most. It leads to driving through when the bus has its arms and lights up; that leads to speeding through the zone without even knowing what zone you’re in.”
City police are taking a zero tolerance approach to distracted driving, he said.
“We know the teaching, maintenance and volunteer staff are all doing their best; the school bus drivers are doing their best and yet it’s constant calls about people who are disobeying simple safety rules,” Farquharson said.
“With that excitement (of returning to school) comes a time that we need to be very cautious: slow down and ensure that kids are safe throughout not only the first couple weeks, but throughout the entire year,” said Cavan Monaghan Mayor Scott McFadden.
“We’ve got kids that will be using crosswalks and buses for the first time, so please slow and be very cautious of our youth. They’re so important.”
Peterborough County Warden and Douro-Dummer Township Mayor J. Murray Jones said it’s crucial that children — “the future of Peterborough County” — when commuting this fall.
“Knowing that school buses are back on the roads, be sure to plan ahead for your commute — leave early, slow down, give cyclists room, and stop for buses,” Jones said.
“Our police services will be paying extra attention to school zones this fall. Let’s make sure the wheels on the bus go round and round safely in your neighbourhood, whether you’re in Millbrook, Norwood or Buckhorn.”
According to the county, which aligned resources to make the partnership happen, while the focus on the campaign is centred on Cavan Monaghan schools, the idea is to raise awareness about traffic safety across Peterborough County as kids return to school.
More pedestrian fatalities occur in September than any other month of the year, according to Transport Canada, while speeding, illegal parking or stopping and distracted driving are the most common unsafe driving activities in Canadian school zones, according to polls done by the Canadian Automobile Association.
Those same polls show one in four drivers have seen a near miss or collision in a school zone, and more than have of these have involved a child.
The Safe School Zones campaign is funded through the county’s Active TransportationMaster Plan, which is posted online at bit.ly/3R3r4N6.
Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.
Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner