As local schools return after the summer break, the Gardai and Mayo County Council are embarking on a campaign of education and enforcement to reduce problems caused by inconsiderate parking near to school entrances.
The initiative is designed to raise awareness of the serious problems that obstructive parking and congestion are causing on a daily basis in reducing visibility for children crossing the road.
Many local schools suffer from the problem of thoughtless drivers who opt to use restricted zones when dropping off and collecting children. The campaign involves road safety advise leaflets posted to parents to parents with school book lists to plea with them to park safely and for students to walk or cycle to school where possible.
Between 1996 and 2000, 5,928 children were killed or injured on Irish roads.
Mayo County Council wants to cut these accident rates by stopping vehicles from parking on keep clear signs, zig zag markings, footpaths, and other illegal places that create ‘danger spots' for young people and other pedestrians.
This new campaign will see leaflets and posters distributed to parents and staff across all schools in the coming weeks - plus a range of other activities including the promotion of safe road crossing and healthier ways to get to school.
One School principal said "We are hopeful that this campaign will strike a chord with parents and that they will think carefully about where they park when dropping their children off at school."
It aims to raise awareness of where drivers should not park and Mayo County Council is asking all schools to appoint junior road safety officers in their schools to highlight road safety, and deter dangerous parking.
Noel Gibbons, road safety officer, Mayo County Council, said: "Many local schools and residents are suffering with these parking problems and we're asking motorists to be more mindful when parking even for a short period of time.
"These set down areas are outside our schools for a very good reason. They're there to keep pupils safe by creating a sight line that enables them to see and be seen before crossing the road.
"The majority of drivers do take notice of these markings and behave responsibly - but there is also a persistent and thoughtless minority who ignore these restrictions for their own selfish convenience.
"These people continue to use restricted zones when dropping off and collecting children just to save themselves what amounts to seconds of their time."
Garda Sergeant Martin Murphy, Divisional Traffic Corps, Castlebar, added: "It's a pretty simple message that motorists need to understand here. Parked vehicles in these areas can mask children trying to cross the road and we have to do something about it.
"If you're not breaking the rules then you have nothing to worry about. But if you are, we will make no apologies for taking direct action to potentially save lives. Motorists who park on cycle lanes are putting people's safety at risk.
"There is legislation in place and the penalty for parking in a cycle lane is one penalty point and a €60 fine. On conviction in a court, it's three penalty points and a €90 fine."
Tips for students:
- Use designated crossing points and follow the crossing signals where available
- Remove headphones from Ipods and MP3 Players when crossing the roadways
- Dress to be seen - daylight hours are decreasing so wear brighter colours or reflective material whenever possible
- Walk on the sidewalk, or if unavailable walk on the side of the road facing the traffic
- Always be aware of your surroundings
Tips for Drivers:
- Plan ahead and be alert of children near or around junctions
- When dropping children off in a school area, stop and allow them to exit the vehicle onto the footpath side.
- Do not block buses or use designated bus only areas for dropping off or picking up your children.
Did you know?
- Until children are about eight years of age, it is difficult for them to assess whether a vehicle is moving or not.
- When children see an approaching car, they first notice the colour - not how fast the vehicle is travelling.
- Children assume cars stop instantly, and do not have the ability to estimate whether there is enough time to cross the road without being struck.
- A child's field of vision is one-third narrower than an adult's.
- Children have difficulty determining where sounds are coming from.
- It takes a vehicle 13 metres to come to a complete stop when driving 30 km/h, but 27 metres - more than double that distance - when driving 50 km/h.