Sooke RCMP Const. Jason Frum stood at the side of the road across from Journey Middle School and shook his head at the sheer number of drivers he was pulling over for exceeding the 30 km/h speed limit in the school zone.
“We’ve pulled over more than 25 drivers over the course of a little more than 30 minutes,” Frum said.
“I guess that many drivers have lots of things on their minds and not paying as much attention to their driving as we’d like. [It’s] behaviour we’re looking to change.”
But the drivers pulled over on this particular morning were fortunate not to be facing the usual fines of between $196 and $368 and the three points on their licenses that their speeding violations would ordinarily have earned them.
Instead, as part of a program called Active and Safe Routes to School, the RCMP were handing out 5×8-inch cards which children had drawn illustrations urging drivers to slow down under the heading “Think of Me. Please slow down!”
The Think of Me approach is designed to raise awareness and inject a human consequence to reckless speeding in school zones.
For example, one card shows a car bearing down on a little girl in a crosswalk with the driver screaming as he realizes the disaster about to happen. On another card an injured child lies on the roadway after being struck by a car and a message has been scrawled above the illustration saying, “Please don’t squoosh me!”
“We’re hoping that this will have a lasting affect on the drivers. We’re hoping the personal messages from children get the point across and put a human face to the possible results of their behaviour,” said Frum.
Most of the steady stream of speeding drivers stopped by the RCMP (after being clocked by a speed-gun as they approached the checkpoint) were apologetic to the officers, admitting to being distracted or unaware of the speed zone.
One driver, who requested anonymity, first maintained that the signage was to blame, claiming that she had driven the same route for 11 years and was certain that there was no 30 km/h speed limit sign on the road she had just travelled. To her credit, she doubled back and saw that the sign was exactly where it should be and returned to apologize to the officers.
“I don’t know how I never noticed that sign before,” she said. “I guess there’s a lesson here that we have to pay more attention.”
A few drivers, said Frum, seemed perturbed at having been stopped.
“They’re in a hurry, but the amazing thing to me is that a lot of them are in a hurry to drop off their kids at the school. They are the ones who should be concerned with traffic safety in the area,” he said, adding that the Think of Me approach is really a matter of education and awareness and for most people that’s going to work.
“For those who don’t get the message, the next step is enforcement and at that point we’ll be handing tickets to people who still haven’t changed their behaviour,” said Frum.