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Cracking down on school zones

Municipal enforcement steps up patrols as school begins

Chris Puglia
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 21/02) - While drivers watch out for students using city crosswalks, the law will be watching drivers to make sure no one is injured as another school year begins next week.

"Every year it seems we have kids getting hit in the crosswalks. But from my knowledge we've never had anything where a child is seriously hurt," said Doug Gillard, manager of municipal enforcement.

"During the school months we change shift schedules. Two guys are on in the morning so we can have guys in two different school zones," said Gillard.

There are 12 schools in Yellowknife, and Gillard identifies two areas where the risks are highest.

The first is Mildred Hall school where the traffic flow is the highest of all school zones.

"Everybody going downtown passes by there," he said.

There are two controlled pedestrian crossings by the school which will hopefully alert motorists to drive with care.

"We want them (motorists) to take precautions in all school zones," said Gillard.

Di Ann Blesse, vice-principal at Mildred Hall school, says the school does its best to educate students on safe crossings, but it doesn't always help.

"We have had students bumped (by vehicles)," said Blesse. "One of the things that seems to be a problem is vehicles turning."

Blesse says at times motorists aren't paying attention and are turning when children are still in the middle of the crosswalk.

"It is a crossing kids really need to be careful at," she said.

Speed has also been an issue and Blesse says they have asked the RCMP to help reduce speeds along that stretch of road.

"They have been very co-operative," she adds.

The second high-risk area is around St. Patrick high school, Sir John Franklin high school and Weledeh Catholic school.

"All three schools are in a three-block area. That is a very high density of kids," said Gillard.

Due to safety concerns, a light was installed last year at the Ecole St. Joseph school crossing.

Every school zone will be patrolled as much as possible this year, says Gillard, and motorists who break the law will be subject to fines.

"We will be there and it will be strictly enforced," said Gillard.

The school year begins Aug. 27 for students at both Yellowknife Education District No. 1 and Yellowknife Catholic schools.