Slow down for school zones, remind police

Back to school brings renewed focus on safety for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians

Const. Markus Lueder

Const. Markus Lueder

White lines painted in the road, won’t save you but common sense and paying attention can, says Const. Markus Lueder.

The school liaison officer with Oak Bay police reminds drivers, students and parents to “pay attention, dial in” when driving or walking the roads this school season.

As school liaison officer, his is the car drivers and pedestrians will see positioned adjacent to school zones this school season. He does that primarily to remind drivers to pay attention when behind the wheel, especially outside Glenlyon Norfolk School, École Willows Elementary and Oak Bay High.

“Those are the busy streets,” Lueder said.

Speed and phones continue to plague those policing school speed zones – 30 km/h strips that go into effect Sept. 6. They’re also among the most dangerous habits.

“Pay attention, you’re driving a phenomenal amount of weight down the road that will not stop on a dime,” he said, adding drivers should consider road conditions including weather and visibility. “At 45 km/h in a school zone you’re 50 per cent over the speed limit.”

It’s not unusual for him to flag down a car for that potential ticket that starts at $196 in a school zone, just to hear the driver was zoned out.

“You’ve got to zone in,” he said. “Pay attention, dial in.”

Distracted driving, phones in particular, continue to be a problem on roads, even in school zones.

“It’s a $500 phone call, make sure it’s worth it,” Lueder said. The minimum fine jumped last spring from $167 to $368 dollars plus four demerit points at $175 – a total of $543.

“(The roadway) is where the top danger is,” he said. “You will not mean to, you’re just preoccupied or just going too fast.”

Lueder is firm and repetitive asking drivers to pay attention. Perhaps because he’s a father; a police officer tasked with facing the aftermath of tragedy; or because he witnessed that horrific moment of inattention as a teen.

One of his most vivid memories goes back to Grade 9. A driver hit a girl in front of his White Rock school.

“She went flying in the air like a rag doll … that’s traumatic,” he said. “Her eyes got huge a split second before the car hit her.”

He’s confident she survived, but just as certain her legs were broken.

“I get to be the guy called to that, and I get to be the guy to tell the parents,” he said. “I don’t want that part of my job.”

Lueder also reiterates common police warnings that go along with the new Pokémon Go game played on a smart phone – akin to the texting while walking warning – pay attention to your surroundings.

“When a person is in a crosswalk they have the right of way, but you will lose,” Lueder said. “Stripes painted on the road won’t save your life.”

Similarly, walking, jogging or cycling at any age with earbuds hampering your senses is simply stupid, he says.

“You just have to be able to hear,” he said. “Have one (bud) in and one out so you can hear a car coming; you can hear a car horn.”

Remind youngsters who walk to school without adult supervision not to take shortcuts or secret trails. “Set out a route with young kids where they’re going to walk to school,” he said. “If they can, go with a friend, especially younger kids.”

And the price of a ticket for riding a bike with no helmet is roughly the price of a helmet $34. So wear one, he said. “We’re not here to be punitive,” he said. “We’re here to make the roads safer.”

 

cvanreeuwyk@oakbaynews.com