Firstly, drivers should be prepared to see an increase in pedestrian traffic, especially in the school zone areas. We have four school zones in town. The speed limit is reduced to 30 km/h in school zones when children are present.
School zones are enforceable 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. So if there is a school play happening at 9 pm at night and the children are leaving the school, then the speed limit is reduced to 30 km/h. If it is 3 a.m. and there are no children present in the area, the speed limit is 50 km/h. The best course of action is to be vigilant in school zones. Driving slower is always better.
A question that is often asked to me is what is meant by “when children are present”? It means that children are outside and within 30 metres of the centre line of the highway.
Penalties for speeding in a school zone are quite hefty. Violators would be fined $340.21 for going 1-15 km over the speed limit, 16-30 km/h would cost a driver a fine of $455.21 and 31 km/h or more would be a fine of $685.21.
APD members will again be enforcing school zone speeds in September as part of their focussed enforcement for the month. Please make sure you keep your head up and slow down.
Another issue that arises at the start of the school year is parking. At Spring Street Academy, a lot of parents drop off their children on Charles Street. Be aware there are traffic signs that restrict/prohibit parking and stopping on Charles Street. The high traffic volumes during the times students are dropped off and picked up pose a risk of a child being struck by a vehicle.
There is a “No Stopping” zone on the west side of Charles Street from the intersection with Spring Street to the cut in. Past the cut in there is a “No Parking” zone.
On the east side of Charles Street there is a “No Stopping” zone from the intersection of Spring Street to Dunlap Street. This is to prevent parents from dropping off their children where they are required to cross the street.
In a “No Parking” zone you can stop your vehicle just long enough to, give them a kiss and then leave the area. In a “No Stopping” zone you cannot stop for any reason, even if it is just a few seconds to drop off your child. The only places to legally park your vehicle is at the bottom end of Charles Street past Dunlap Street, and the bottom end of Academy Street and Dickey Street. This is to prevent a traffic jam in the area. There are times where Charles Street is so busy it goes down to one lane of traffic.
Please comply with the parking signs. Police officers will be monitoring the area and failing to obey the parking restrictions could leave yourself open to a parking ticket. I do realize that some people want to get out of their vehicles and bring their child to the school ground, especially the little ones. If this is what you want please be prepared to come early to get one of the few parking spots or to use a side street and walk a short distance to the school.
The Spring Street Academy parking lot is off limits to parents.
At West Highlands School, one issue we have had is the parking on Hickman Street. Drivers must be mindful to not block residential driveways.
There are also traffic signs which restrict/prohibit parking/stopping in this area as well. “No Stopping” signs are posted on the east side of Hickman Street between Park Street and Mission Street. Again, we don’t want parents dropping off or picking up children from the opposite side of the road which requiring them to dart across Hickman Street. There is also a “No Parking” zone at the cut in on the west side of Hickman adjacent to the school. The “No Parking” restriction is only between 8 and 9 a.m.
The loop in front of West Highland School is prohibited to parking as well. If you are dropping off your child quickly then it is fine, but we continually see vehicles parking there waiting for their children. If you want to park, there are parking spots on Maltby Court and also the parking lot at the church.
For parents of students for both elementary schools, please remember the parking restrictions were created for the safety of your children.
For the high school, the bus loop is closed to all traffic except for buses at certain times of the day. There is really no excuse at the high school as there is ample parking in the parking lot for people to pick up and drop off.
Children who walk to school should be taught how to properly get from their residence to their school. Make sure they are crossing properly at corners and using the crossing guard areas when applicable. They should stay on the sidewalks whenever possible. When crossing the street, children should indicate that they wish to cross and then not proceed until the traffic has come to a stop.
Parents should also have a conversation with their child about not talking to strangers. Make sure they know to not accept rides from someone they do not know. Some perpetrators may use the ruse that they are looking for a lost puppy or something to help lure the child to their vehicle. We don’t want to alarm our children, but they all should be made aware of the potential dangers.
The last safety tip I want to talk about is our school buses.
Make sure you educate your children to not stand up in the bus until the bus has safely stopped. When children are waiting for the bus, the child should stay on the sidewalk and well away from the bus until it comes to a stop. Vehicle drivers must be aware that when the red lights are flashing on the school bus, traffic must stop on both lanes of traffic.
We have had several reported instances of vehicles passing by the school buses with their lights flashing on Spring Street. In 2016, the Nova Scotia School Boards Association reported more than 1,100 incidents where drivers failed to stop for a school bus with its red lights flashing and stop sign deployed. Violators face a fine of $410 and 6 demerits for this offence.
We all can work together in making sure that the start of the school year is safe for everyone.
Const. Tom Wood is the crime prevention officer for the Amherst Police Department