Drivers have been failing to stop for children and crossing guards in marked crosswalks and the Sooke School District is sounding the alarm.
In recent weeks, SD62 said there have been three near misses involving crossing guards in the Westhills neighbourhood near PEXSISEN Elementary School and Centre Mountain Lellum Middle School. In all three cases, crossing guards had their stop signs out and were in crosswalks.
In one case, a driver, after ignoring the stop sign, told the crossing guard they legally didn’t have to stop or obey the crossing guard. This isn’t true, according to Cst. Andrew Matheson, a spokesperson with the West Shore RCMP.
“It’s very explicit in the Motor Vehicle Act, it’s drivers’ duty to obey the direction of all flaggers, that includes crossing guards. They also have to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk at all times.”
Kailey Sutherland works as an education assistant at Pexsisen but started also working as a crossing guard to make some extra money with inflation increasing living costs.
“It can be pretty scary for a lot of these kids and for myself, it’s a high-traffic area, we have everyone coming from Sooke, we have all the truckers all the logging trucks, Fridays are the worst time. It’s terrifying at this point.”
Sutherland added people might be unaware of the fact there are two new schools, meaning a lot of kids are walking through the area, particularly now the weather is warming up.
Mark Panneton walks his daughter Samantha home from Pexsisen most days and has noticed several near misses recently, mostly with crossing guards as they’re the first ones to walk into the road when helping people cross.
“These folks are really helpful trying to get the traffic to stop but there are trucks and cars that ignore them and blow right past,” he said. “I’ve seen them have a few near misses with people just not paying attention to the bright, high-vis gear even they’re walking into traffic.”
Panneton says he has noticed the school district and the city have put in a lot of resources into the area in the past few months but said more traffic calming measures may be needed.
“Generally if people could take a few extra minutes, breathe and slow down, and be respectful of the school zone that would be great.”
Matheson said police were out Tuesday morning doing enforcement and make it a priority to try and be in the area.
“Crosswalk and school zone safety is essential for pedestrians and motorists. It is critical that motorists follow the rules of the roads to ensure that our students and all members of the community are safe while using marked crosswalks, including those with crossing guards,” the district wrote in the statement. “Our priority is that students, staff and community members arrive safely to their destination and we hope that motorists will do their part to ensure that happens.”
SD62 offered some safety reminders to help motorists be more diligent near schools. They include making eye contact with children and crossing guards so they know they have been seen, stopping for all pedestrians and crossing guards and waiting for them to clear the crosswalk before proceeding, not passing other vehicles at crosswalks, checking for children in crosswalks before turning at an intersection, following the school or playground zone speed limit and avoiding distracted driving.
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