Daily Telegraph - Wednesday 7 February, 2007

Speed fools near schools on notice

By Chris Charnock and Vikki Campion

Speed fools

Keeping the kids safe ... Police launch Operation Back to School
targeting selfish drivers who put our kids at risk by driving carelessly
around school zones. See
video interviews with police leading
Operation Back to School, plus Sophie Delezio's dad, Ron Delezio.

THEY are the bad drivers all parents fear when they drop their children at school selfish motorists who ignore the flags, the crossing, the students and the law.

In just one day last year more than 1000 drivers added to the fear as they were caught speeding through school zones.

Yesterday a statewide police operation began in NSW targeting child safety in and around schools.

The father of Sophie Delezio the little girl whose two horrific road-related injuries shocked a nation was the first Sydney parent to join the campaign.

Ron Delezio told of his frustration at the number of times he saw drivers breaking the law near schools despite repeated campaigns.

"Things like cars performing U-turns in front of crossings and parking in no-stopping zones outside schools just because the drivers don't want to walk 20 feet," Mr Delezio said.

Traffic services commander Chief Superintendent John Hartley said Operation Back to School would not only target drivers speeding in school zones and over crossings, but also illegal use of mobile phones and other traffic offences. "It doesn't matter if you are just sending a text message, you are still using a hand-held mobile phone while driving and it is a serious offence," he said.

Supt Hartley said the operation was in response to the continuing carelessness displayed by the state's drivers.

A month ago a seven-year-old schoolgirl was knocked down and killed when a driver on the Central Coast ran through a red light adjacent to a school zone.

And on one day last October 1164 drivers were caught committing offences in school areas.

The week-long blitz is part of a push by NSW Police to force drivers to slow down and take greater care while travelling near schools.

Speeding through a school zone can earn penalties of up to $1589 and an immediate loss of licence. Using a mobile phone while driving carries a $225 fine and the loss of three demerit points.

After a traumatic childhood experience of her own, Glebe mother Karen Berzin said her son Finn, 7, would not be allowed to cross the road without her until high school.

"I saw a girl get hit by a truck crossing the road when I was at primary school in the early '70s," Ms Berzin said.

"It might be through seeing it in the eyes of a child maybe that exaggerates my memory of it, but she was thrown so high into the air it looked like she was flying.

"It was horrific and I will never forget it."

Education campaigns were the only way to stop speeding at school crossings, she said.

"At this crossing (Glebe Point Rd) there are 50 signs up but people hardly glance at them they are too busy on their mobile phone," she said. "People are just so busy, they are running late and it's just too dangerous."

Lollypop lady of seven years Fay Prentice said many ignorant motorists had no respect for the red "children crossing" sign.

"They just do not give a damn," she said.

"Sometimes they are ignorant.

"One man actually told me I could not stop traffic. Well, yes I can."

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