• Stephanie O'Hanley

Station 3 back-to-school road safety campaign offers lessons for parent drivers


PHOTOS BY STEPHANIE O’HANLEY

Station 3 Commander Jacques Bisson (middle), and Constable Francis Malenfant chat with École Murielle-Dumont students.

It was all about back-to-school safety, but at École Murielle-Dumont in Pierrefonds, a police-led campaign held September 2 was aimed especially at parents who break the law and endanger students by making U-turns, stopping in the school’s ‘No Stopping’ zone as they drop off their children, and passing school buses that have their stop signs activated.

Even with a solid yellow line painted in the middle of Gascon Street, a police presence and parent and community organization volunteers decked out in safety vests, seven parents broke traffic rules and received $38 tickets for U-turns.

“There was even a lady who told me ‘I saw you, that’s why I did it,’” said Const. Francis Malenfant, who handles traffic matters for Station 3.

“What we’ve done is for a first-time offence we’ve applied the city by-law and it’s only $38,” said Malenfant. “They’re lucky,” he said, pointing to the yellow line the parents crossed when they made U-turns. “For a second infraction, for instance, if I see them doing it again in two weeks, it’s $284 and three demerit points.”

“We want to educate parents to drop off their children as quickly as possible to ensure a fluid traffic flow,” said Station 3 Commander Jacques Bisson. “The work of our volunteers is to stay on the sidewalks and accompany children to the school entrances to reassure parents so the parents don’t need to leave their vehicles because it takes a few minutes to bring children to the school and it causes huge traffic congestion problems and problems for area residents.”

Bisson said when school buses arrive some parent drivers don’t respect school bus stop signs and having large numbers of parents dropping off their children at the same time in a limited space creates a dangerous situation.

“When there’s traffic congestion, children are put at risk,” Bisson said. “We want to avoid having children walk between the vehicles. We want a road safety record with no incidents.”

Bisson said Station 3 was applying the same strategy at Marguerite-Bourgeoys School Board elementary schools in Pierrefonds, Ste. Geneviève, Île Bizard and Roxboro. Working with the police in broadcasting the safety message were parent volunteers, students, local firefighters, public security officers, traffic police and the Canadian National Police Service and representatives from Stop Now and Plan (SNAP), Action Jeunesse de l’Ouest-de-l'Île (AJOI), Projet Communautaire de Pierrefonds (PCP), Centre 1,2,3 GO and Jeunesse en action.

Claude Raymond, who just started a new job as principal of École Murielle-Dumont after serving as principal of École Jonathan-Wilson, said his former school had a similar public awareness campaign and there he also saw time-pressed parents and risky driving maneuvers.” You have to educate people not only at the beginning of the year but throughout the year,” Raymond said. The area around the school is poorly laid out, he noted, adding, “We’re working with the city to reconfigure it.”

Parent volunteer Dominique Miron, who said she’s very involved with school committees at École Murielle-Dumont, said it was her second year raising awareness. Asked about how road safety at the school compares with last year, Miron said, “We don’t know yet. It’s worse right now because there are so many U-turns and kids being dropped off everywhere. (Parents) being rude and giving us the finger is not unusual as well. We’re not doing it to be mean. Parents have to understand we’re doing it for the kids.”

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