The morning school run should prove much safer in the coming months as a planned NSW government initiative takes effect.
With the school year now well underway across the state, the government has announced a $10 million boost to school zone safety.
According to NSW Premier Mike Baird and Roads Minister Duncan Gay, half of this amount will be allocated towards installing another set of flashing lights at school crossings. At present, NSW authorities are in the midst of providing each school in the state with crossing lights by the end of the year. However, with some schools having multiple entrances, more lights are required at close to 400 locations.
Mr Baird explained the importance of flashing lights, considering the high number of accidents involving children last year.
"Roads and young children can be a dangerous mix - by making school zones as safe as possible we reduce the risk of a tragedy," he said in a February 11 media statement.
"Flashing lights are the most effective tool we have to slow motorists down around schools and I'm proud we're on target to meet our commitment to deliver flashing lights to every school in NSW by the end of this year."
The other half of the funding is expected to be allocated to key school zone safety infrastructure. This includes improved signage, safe drop-off zones, pedestrian refuges and raised zebra crossings.
Focus on at risk students
While the additional sets of flashing lights are welcomed, not all schools can receive the infrastructure at the same time. To ensure this allocation is fair, the Centre for Road Safety will undertake an independent risk assessment of each location.
Mr Gay stated that the investigation would look into traffic volumes such as truck movements, pedestrian volumes and the location's crash history. He also said that it is vital to provide children with a safe environment to walk to and from school.
"We know a vehicle that hits a pedestrian at 50km/h is twice as likely to cause a fatality as the same vehicle travelling at 40km/h, which is why school zone speed limits are so important," he said.
More effort required from motorists
Based on the results of Operation Compliance, the new flashing lights are desperately needed to improve road safety around schools.
On Wednesday February 11, NSW Police conducted a one-day blitz and caught more than 600 drivers speeding in school zones. In addition to this, 1,145 motorists were found to be using their mobile phone and 164 were stopped for breaking school rules.
Police highlighted one case in Surry Hills where a male rider was caught travelling 82km/h in a 40km/h zone. He was issued an infringement notice in this case.
Traffic and Highway Patrol Commander, Assistant Commissioner John Hartley, explained that the results were "extremely disappointing" and that a lack of regard for safety was shown by many drivers.
"To highlight school zones yesterday and see these results, particularly after warning the public the operation was happening, puts to the forefront the fact some motorists are still willing to take potentially extreme risks," he said in a February 12 media release.
"With the road toll at five deaths more than this time last year, it is astounding people were still not getting the message about road safety."
He noted that police will continue to monitor school zones each day to catch drivers who are endangering children on their way to and from school. Drivers should expect these operations in the future.
No matter where you are driving, there is a high chance that you will pass a school zone. As well as obeying the road rules it is important to ensure your vehicle is safe and roadworthy and that you comprehensive insurance, CTP green slip and registration are all up to date. You can check the status of your CTP green slip and registration on this website.