Drivers ignoring safety of children

The Sunday Telegraph

Sunday 29 July 2001

Recovering: Jamie Jackson, 10, hit by car outside her school, with mum Lorraine

MORE than 70 per cent of motorists are breaking the speed limit in school safety zones, an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has revealed.

Exclusive research carried out in conjunction with the NRMA found an alarming number of drivers speeding outside schools as children left at the end of the school day.

The survey – in the same week the Staysafe Committee made a raft of recommendations on road safety for children – measured the speed of 1300 vehicles travelling in 40km/h zones outside two Sydney schools.

NRMA officers found 71 per cent of drivers exceeded the 40km/h limit outside Boronia Park Primary, in Pittwater Rd, Gladesville and outside Blacktown South Primary, in Flushcombe Rd, Blacktown.

At Blacktown, six per cent of drivers were travelling at more than 60km/h, with two cars hitting 71km/h.

NRMA member services chief executive Rob Carter said he was shocked by these results.

"It's of great concern that motorists are not taking notice of the speed limits outside schools," he said.

"To see this level is really very disturbing. That six per cent are doing more than 60km/h is just plain foolishness. It's reckless."

In the wake of the survey and the Staysafe report, the Government has announced that all NSW schools will be protected by 40km/h zones by the end of this year.

The pledge was yesterday hailed as a partial victory by road-safety campaigners, who warned that much more needed to be done.

"It's a step in the right direction," Pedestrian Council of Australia chairman Harold Scruby said.

"But these speed limits aren't being enforced. If motorists thought they were going to get caught, they wouldn't take the risk."

Three children under 12 were killed and 59 injured on NSW roads during school hours last year.

At present, 2810 NSW schools – about 85 per cent – have temporary 40km/h zones.

These zones come into force between 8am and 9.30am and 2.30pm and 4pm – when children are arriving at, or leaving, school.

The Staysafe inquiry – prompted by the death in June last year of Bulli Primary student Ella James – last week recommended that the 40km/h limit be extended to cover the whole State and the entire school day.

But Roads Minister Carl Scully is unlikely to approve this measure because he believes it will encourage driver complacency.

Mr Scully did acknowledge that police enforcement of speed limits needed to be looked at, and that better warning signs were needed.

“Ultimately, though, it’s a matter for individual motorists to take responsibility when behind the wheel,” his spokesman said.

Brian Evans, of the School Child Travel Safety Campaign, said he was not surprised by the survey results and that drivers needed to be better informed about 40km/h zones.

“Drivers need major re-education,” Mr Evans said.

“They need to know where these zones are and when they operate. There need to be better signs and more enforcement by police.”

Police traffic services commander Chief Superintendent Ron Sorrenson told the inquiry in April police lacked the resources to monitor speeding outside schools.

“We have to balance our priorities in road safety,” he said.

“You have myriad road trauma problems in an area, and one needs to prioritise.”

Mr Scruby said speed cameras outside schools might be a solution.

“It bewilders me why people don’t want to set up cameras,” he said.

“They would pay for themselves, but the RTA and the police are playing pass the parcel.”

The Staysafe report’s recommendations included colour-coding of signs in school zones and extending safety programs to all kindergartens and primary schools in NSW.

A young life nearly lost


LITTLE Jamie Jackson never even saw the car that hit her.

The 10-year-old schoolgirl was holding her mother’s hand when she was struck when crossing the road outside her school.

Thrown onto the bonnet of the car, Jamie, a Year Five student was then hurled onto the road as her horrified mother Lorraine looked on.

“When I first saw her lying in the road I thought she was dead,” recalled Mrs Jackson, of Bonnyrigg.

“I just started screaming at the driver.”

Jamie was rushed to Liverpool Hospital following the July 3 accident — which happened in broad daylight — outside Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Mt Pritchard in the city’s west.

She suffered a broken femur and head injuries and after being stabilised was moved to a high dependency ward at The Children’s Hospital, Westmead.

She is in traction and doctors say it will be another five weeks before she can return home.

Mrs Jackson said the spot where the accident happened — a 40kmh zone at traffic lights at the junction of Humphries and Cabramatta roads — is a notorious accident blackspot.

“It’s a very busy road and cars come round the corner so fast they don’t see the lights,” she said. “The school has been campaigning to have something done for ages.

“It was a senseless accident. If there was more awareness near where schools are then this may never have happened.

“There should be more signs. We were very, very lucky.

“Something has to be done before somebody gets killed.”

Speeding cars anger parents


THE results of The Sunday Telegraph speed survey angered parents at both schools this week.

At Boronia Park, parents and their children often have to run and dodge between passing cars to cross busy Pittwater Rd.

Simon Moore’s children, Sam, eight, and Annabell, six, attend the school.

“Obviously, the speeding worries everyone who has children,” Mr Moore said.

“Any of them could be hit at a crossing. They need bigger signs so the drivers can see them.

“As a parent, if I’m driving past a school I always slow down.

“I’m in favour of bringing in the limits throughout the school day.

“It would make people more aware, and they wouldn’t have to think about what speed to do depending on the time.”

Anna Lloyd has two sons, Jonathan, eight, and Nicholas, six, at the school.

“I would never let my kids stand on the corner,” she said. “The cars here turn at the last minute — they’re unpredictable.

“This is such a major road, and the cars go far too fast. I make sure the kids cross at the traffic lights.

“I just don’t trust the cars. The safety zones should be extended all day.”

At Flushcombe Rd, Blacktown, the traffic is heavy as the school day ends, with parents’ cars parked solidly either side of the road.

Charlie Ferraro, a father of two, said the road outside the primary school was “like a racetrack”.

The 39-year-old said he watched the majority of vehicles speeding every day when he went to pick up his children, Serina, 11, and Danielle, nine.

“They’re going up to 100km/h. There’s a big bunch of revheads driving around here, and you can hear them from over the hill.

“I don’t want my kids getting hurt. I’m desperately hoping nothing’s going to happen to them.”