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RCMP urge caution around school zones, buses

Motorists are reminded that students will be out on the road now that local schools are in operation
Pembina Hills Buses (VM)
Parents and motorists can help keep kids on their way to school safe by following a few safety tips, such as being mindful of school zones and establishing a safe route that children can travel on their way to class.

WESTLOCK — With the 2023-2024 school year now in full swing, the Westlock RCMP is urging motorists to take extra care now that children will be travelling to and from school. 

"The big thing for us is that school is back in session,” said Cpl. Riley Sutherland, in an e-mail. “We would like people to be mindful in the school zone and of the school buses.” 

Sutherland noted that their traffic unit recently attended R.F. Staples School and did an education session with students about traffic safety. They will also be out regularly in different school zones doing traffic enforcement, she added. 

The Alberta Traffic Safety Act states that the speed limit in school and playground zones is 30 kilometres per hour, but municipalities may prescribe a lower maximum speed limit. 

They may also choose to set certain times for speed limits in school zones; in Westlock, they run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on school days. 

Motorists should also be mindful of the fact that it is illegal to pass a school bus when its red lights are flashing red. Drivers on both sides of the road must remain stopped until the red lights are turned off. 

“Fly-bys” of stopped buses are a problem in the Pembina Hills School Division, as well as the rest of Alberta. To combat this issue, the division has begun to install extended arm stop signs on buses, as well as cameras that can record videos of fly-by motorists. 

A release from the Alberta RCMP also contains further tips for parents and guardians for the school year. 

First, children should be shown a safe route along which they may walk to and from school. They should also be made aware of how to use a crosswalk and to obey all traffic control devices and crossing guards. 

Children should also be made cognizant of the fact that rain, snow, fog, wildfire smoke or just plain darkness may obscure the vision of motorists, making pedestrians difficult to see. In general, children should make eye contact with an oncoming driver before crossing the street. 

In the early morning hours and dark evenings, wearing brightly-coloured clothing or clothing with reflective strips will help children be seen by motorists. 

Parents and guardians should also remind their children that listening to loud music on headphones or texting while walking is hazardous, as they become less aware of potential traffic dangers around them. Also, pedestrians do not always have the right of way. 

Parents who pick up their children at the bus stop after school should also wait at the bus stop itself, not across the street. Children may forget traffic safety rules in their excitement to see you and dash recklessly across the street. 

“Each person has a part to play to ensure that everyone using the roads in Alberta does so in a manner which is safe for all Albertans,” the release states.

Kevin Berger,

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