Motorists nabbed for speeding soon will have a choice between getting a ticket or heading back to class as part of a pilot project to make school zones safer.
Kicking off this Friday (Nov. 26), local police officers under the direction of OPP Cst. Anne McCoy will police the school zones—specifically the J.W. Walker area—as part of the new “Ticket or Teach” initiative.
Officers will be monitoring speed using radar, as well as parking, stopping, and other infractions.
“Violators will be given the option of receiving a ticket or attend a teaching session and view student safety messages, stressing the impact speeding could have on their school friend’s safety,” explained Grace Silander, administrative co-ordinator with Safe Communities Rainy River District, which is spearheading the new program.
“Encouragement to attend the teaching will be strongly recommended,” she added.
The teaching session, slated for Dec. 10 at the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre, will feature videos that have been put together by Grade 8 students from J.W. Walker School.
“J.W. Walker students have done a bang-up presentation and it’s going to be a heart-wrenching and warming experience for everyone,” Silander enthused.
“They’ve done a really good job.”
Coinciding with the “Ticket or Teach” program will be the “Pace Car” program, in which law-abiding drivers, volunteers, parents, and partners are being encouraged to participate.
“[The program is] to try and solicit individuals who will actually drive as a pace car throughout the town, thereby slowing down the traffic,” Silander explained.
“So in other words, they pace the traffic.
“By slowing traffic down, you lower the chances of injuries and also the severity of impact if, indeed, there is an injury if someone does get hit,” she noted.
Information on signing up for the “Pace Car” program has been sent home with J.W. Walker students. People also can pledge through the Northwestern Health Unit office in Fort Frances.
Those who sign up receive a sign that is placed in the back window of their car to indicate they are a pace car, said Silander, “and then you just drive carefully.”
The “Pace Car” program, as well as “Ticket or Teach,” both are initiatives stemming from Safe Kids Canada, with the local Safe Communities committee applying for—and receiving—a grant to run it.
Silander believes the message of driving carefully will get across because it’s coming from the people who really are impacted by trying to cross the street and navigate traffic.
“Kids can move people in many, many ways,” she said. “It has been proven that to get to the parents is through their children.
“If [parents] actually see their children asking them to slow down, I think the initiative will be much more of a choice than if I or an OPP officer stands up and says the same thing,” Silander reasoned.
These new safety projects follow up on one from the previous year when Grade 6 students at J.W. Walker took cameras out into the community to identify hazards which they see, as well as the potential impact these hazards have on students travelling to and from school.
This “photovoice” project ended up identifying traffic as the number-one hazard students face.
The “Ticket or Teach” program will run over the next few weeks, possibly continuing longer if a need for it to continue is identified.
“We will revisit it and see how it works,” noted Silander. “Of course, evaluations and outcomes will dictate whether we go forward with it or not.
“But we’re hoping that it will be a bang-up success,” she enthused.