‘Walk zone’ rule puts chil­dren in harm’s way

The Packet (Clarenville) - - EDITORIAL -

As a par­ent of school age chil­dren, I find my­self in the same sit­u­a­tion that is 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 why 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 per hour 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, but 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-and­paste-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.

Most ra­tio­nal peo­ple would agree that the roads we walked as chil­dren in the ’80s are long gone, but yet this holdover pol­icy re­mains.

Suzette Moss

Por­tu­gal Cove-St. Philip’s

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