B.C. school zones are like the ‘Wild West’ according to new survey

Police check motorists' speeds in a school zone in this file photo. Global News

School zones in B.C. are likened to the Wild West in a new poll released on the first day of school for many kids in the province.

BCAA’s School Zone Safety survey found parents, who are speeding, ignoring road signs, and being hostile to other drivers, are a concern to other drivers, principals and teachers from schools across B.C. Forty-eight per cent of people surveyed say the problem is bad and is getting worse.

“School zones can be frantic places with not everyone on their best driving behaviour,” said Shawn Pettipas, BCAA manager of community impact programs in a release. “We commissioned the survey to see the extent of the problem but the results were more concerning than even we expected.”

Respondents also said parents and guardians are making unsafe choices when it comes to school drop-offs and pick-ups. Eighty-seven per cent of people said they have seen children getting in and out of cars in undesignated areas, such as double-parked cars on the street.

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Other results from the poll include:

  • 75 per cent say they’ve seen ‘near misses’, when a child is almost struck by a car.
  • 83 per cent witness parents/guardians speeding in school zones.
  • 80 per cent witness parents/guardians ignoring traffic signs and road rules.
  • 51 per cent see hostile behaviour from parents and guardians such as honking and using profanities.
  • 82 per cent witness distracted driving by parents and guardians.
  • 88 per cent see illegal parking by parents and guardians.

On our Global BC Facebook page, many commented saying they have seen some bad driving behaviour in school zones.

“I live right adjacent to a ‘school zone’ and the parents of children attending the school easily set the worst examples for their children,” writes Reginald Freebody. “This school has a marked crosswalk and a crossing guard, but parents routinely jaywalk with their children mid-block and/or double park and let their kids out of their cars mid-block. I’ve lived near this school for almost 20 years and have rarely seen police enforcement of this particular school zone.”

Jenn Breg writes she has many stories just like that one. “I actually had to stop a woman by stepping in front of her vehicle (as I pushed my son aside) because she was driving way too fast on a school day (class had just let out),” she says. “Her excuse was that she would have seen the kids and stopped in time. I tried to explain to her that not all kids use the crosswalk and many will just run out in front of vehicles but she didn’t care.”

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The survey found most people think these bad behaviours come down to rushed parents who are running late and congested school zones.

However, other motorists are also guilty of unsafe driving through school zones. Ninety-four per cent of people say they have seen motorists speeding, 90 per cent say motorists are distracted and 90 per cent say drivers ignore traffic signs and the rules of the road.

“We understand that parents and guardians are busy and the survey wasn’t intended to focus on anyone in particular,” said Pettipas. “We appreciate the honesty of parents, guardians and school staff who participated. At least a problem has been highlighted which means we all can start working on solutions, starting with better driving behaviour by all drivers and safer choices by parents and guardians when it comes to dropping off and picking up their child.”

The speed limit in school zones is 30 km/hr between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. A speeding ticket starts at $196.

The survey was conducted online from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1., among a representative sample of 712 adults in British Columbia, including 301 who currently serve as principals, teachers or school staff at a British Columbia elementary school, and 411 parents or guardians who drop off and/or pick up a child from school.

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