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'Near misses' near Langford schools prompt warning to drivers

“We’ve had people shake their heads at us and say ‘No, not stopping’ and they just fly right through,” says a crossing guard.

Mark Panneton walks his daughter, Samantha, home from Grade 1 at PEXSISEN Elementary School in Langford almost every day, and he has seen how some drivers get angry and impatient when crossing guards try to do their job on West Shore Parkway.

The Sooke School District says there have been three “near misses” near PEXSISEN and adjacent Centre Mountain Lellum Middle School in recent weeks, and called on drivers to be more aware that there are students in the area.

The schools both opened in 2022 on Constellation Avenue and have a combined total of about 1,000 students.

The guards try to keep students safe in the area of West Shore Parkway and Langford Parkway by activating the pedestrian-controlled light at the main crosswalk and stepping off the curb with their Stop signs held high, but it doesn’t always have the desired effect.

Panneton said the crossing guards do their best, “but there’s trucks and cars that just ignore them and blow right past.”

“Generally, if people could just take a few extra minutes and breathe and slow down, and be respectful of the school zone, that would be great.”

Some drivers have told the crossing guards that there is no legal obligation to follow their directions, which West Shore RCMP Const. Andrew Matheson said is not the case.

He said police have responded by increasing their presence around the schools and letting drivers know what their responsibilities are — and that the law requires them to obey crossing guards.

Drivers who don’t stop for a pedestrian at a crosswalk could face fines of $167 for failure to yield to a pedestrian and $196 for driving without consideration.

Crossing guard Kailey Sutherland, who was working the after-school shift Wednesday on West Shore Parkway, said one of her colleagues has been bumped by a car there, and she is afraid of what could happen next.

“It’s only a matter of time before one of us gets hit, or one of these kids.”

She said there is a roundabout next to the West Shore Parkway crosswalk that many people don’t seem to know how to use, and a hill on the approach that drivers tend to speed on.

The speed limit is 40 kilometres an hour, but it is routinely ignored, she said.

“We’ve had people shake their heads at us and say ‘No, not stopping’ and they just fly right through,” Sutherland said. “We’ve had people swearing at us, we’ve had lots of yelling or honking at us just because these drivers are frustrated. They don’t want to stop, they want to get on their commute.”

The district said it is working with students and families to be sure they know how to use crosswalks in a safe manner.

“Our priority is that students, staff and community members arrive safely to their destination, and we hope that motorists will do their part to ensure that happens,” the district said.

The district listed the following safety measures for drivers:

• Make eye contact with children and crossing guards in crosswalks so they are aware they have been seen.

• Stop for all pedestrians and let them clear the crosswalk before proceeding.

• Obey crossing guards and let them clear the crosswalk before proceeding.

• Do not pass any vehicles at crosswalks.

• Check for children in crosswalks before turning left at intersections, and check both directions before making a right turn.

• Obey school-zone speed limits.

• Avoid distracted driving.

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