‘Walk zone’ rule puts children in harm’s way
As a parent of school-age children, I find myself in the same situation being faced by many parents across our province.
Our government has a school bus policy stating that any child who lives within 1.6 kilometres of their school is not entitled to take a school bus. They live in a “walk zone.”
Parents have been pleading with the government for years with valid reasons why it is not safe for our children to walk to school, as many of us did when we were children.
There are many reasons the 1.6km policy should be considered for revision as I see it in my hometown.
First, speed is a factor in many small towns, as is evident in the radar signs that have been posted. You don’t need to stand in front of these signs in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s for very long to observe that very few passing cars obey the limit. We have studied this ourselves. In fact, vehicles go, on average, 15 km-h over the posted limit.
We know that many drivers are impaired and/or distracted while driving, either texting, applying makeup, drinking coffee, talking to the person with them or rushing to get to their destination. I’m not sure we can trust these already distracted drivers to be watching for children. We already know that some drivers have no respect for stopped buses with their stop signs out and lights flashing. Most drivers have witnessed a vehicle pass a school bus with no regard for the safety of children entering or exiting a bus, resulting in some smart bus drivers actually angling the bus across the road to prevent this illegal activity.
What about the narrow shoulders of the road in smaller towns? Some of these shoulders are narrower than the width of the shoulders of the child expected to walk it. Everyone knows what happens in winter around here: they walk on the street.
Most rational people would agree that the roads we walked as children in the ‘80s are long gone, yet this holdover policy remains.
Dale Kirby, minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, has the ability to change this policy, but instead has either been ignoring the letters from concerned parents, or lazily sending out the exact same copy-and-paste job email from last year.
Take a wild guess which opposition member said in the House of Assembly on Nov. 18, 2013: “What we really need to do, before the winter sets in, is to get this issue dealt with, especially when it comes to smaller kids. Smaller kids should not have to be out there in bad weather conditions. They are in dangerous territory on some of our streets.”
I am asking every affected parent in our province to refresh this man’s memory. Email, fax and or call Dale Kirby or contact your MHA. Voice your concerns to have this 1.6-km policy eliminated to keep all our children safe.