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The Sunday Telegraph - Tuesday 6 May, 2006

Lights, cameras in school zone plan

By Linda Silmalis

FLASHING lights and speed cameras will be installed near schools around the State to reduce the number of children being hit by cars.

The State Government yesterday finalised consultations with police, the NRMA, RTA and the education department on the plan, which will cost up to $300 million to implement.

The private sector will tomorrow be invited to come up with the design for an "electronic safety alert system".

The system will incorporate flashing 40km/h signs and lights overhanging the road with the roll-out to begin by the end of the year.

The signs could also include electronic variable messages and their own fault-reporting system.

Businesses will be invited to help fund the cost of the lights through advertising.

Revenue from the speed cameras, which will operate during school hours of 8am to 9.30am and 2.30pm to 4pm, will also contribute to the cost.

The measures follow a three-year campaign by schools, the NSW Parents and Citizens Association, the NSW Pedestrian Council and victims for improved safety measures around schools.

In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Telegraph, NSW Roads Minister Eric Roozendaal said the package of measures would be rolled out across the State.

"Tomorrow we will go to the private sector to come up with a design for a high-visibility safety alert system," he said.

"To further beef up the measures, we will be rolling out 50 mobile and fixed speed cameras in school zones around the State.

"This is a comprehensive package that will improve the safety of schoolchildren."

In February, The Sunday Telegraph published NSW Roads and Traffic Authority figures which showed one child was injured or killed by a car on their way to school every two days.

In 2003, the Government initiated a trial of varying flashing lights systems at 43 schools.

Four different alert systems were put on trial. Mr Roozendaal said the results showed the existing systems to have been ineffective with 50 per cent of motorists continuing to speed through the zones.

The signs, which feature flashing light bulbs, also broke down on average every nine months, he said.

Mr Roozendaal said the Government tomorrow would call for expressions of interest for a far superior system.

"We want a high-visibility system that involves warning lights hanging over the roadway to alert motorists that they are approaching a school zone," he said.

"The existing flashing lights systems that have been trialled are unreliable and not really effective. The technology exists to do better."

Once a design was adopted, the Government would call for tenders for the construction and installation.

Mr Roozendaal said he envisaged the roll-out to begin by the end of the year. The NRMA last year put forward a proposal for businesses to sponsor the flashing lights. Mr Roozendaal said the motoring authority had confirmed it had expressions of interest from the private sector to advertise.

The safety alert system would be complemented by 50 fixed and mobile speed cameras operating covertly around schools.

The mobile cameras would be rotated to different schools.

Signs warning motorists of the possible presence of a speed camera would be posted at every school in the State.

Penalties will also be increased with fines increasing by an average $50 and demerit points for stopping on a pedestrian crossing doubling from one to two.

Double parking will also attract two demerit points and a $225 fine.

RTA figures showed 11 children aged between five and sixteen years have been killed and 1184 injured since 2000.

The incidents occurred during the school travelling times of 8am to 9.30am and 2.30pm to 4pm.

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