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School traffic brought to RCMP’s attention

The School District is asking for the RCMP's help in dealing with traffic safety around Cranbrook's schools.

On Jan. 9, the board of trustees wrote a letter to Mike Sekela, Chief Superintendent of RCMP Southeast District, asking for RCMP support with a number of traffic concerns

"We've had concerns about traffic at a number of Cranbrook schools," Board chair Frank Lento told the Townsman..

Lento said the board decided to write the letter after speaking to East Kootenay Traffic Services Cpl. Shayne Parker at an advocacy committee meeting in November, and following on from a December 2012 traffic study by school district staff.

In the letter, Lento goes over some of those concerns, and a general concern for children's safety getting to and from school.

"The perception is that traffic in school zones is exceeding the posted, and more importantly safe, speed limits," writes Lento. "The tenuous road conditions brought about by the seasonal change and the diminished morning light or low-light conditions has given rise to a number of 'close calls'. The mobile plastic figures, Traffic Annie, that are employed in a number of elementary school grounds, are a favourite fatality. Fortunately, the plastic figures can be replaced – human life is another issue."

The letter provides a list of specific concerns the school board is seeking the police's help in addressing.

Firstly, the board asks for increased presence by RCMP to police speeding and distracted driving in school zones.

Next, the board says that schools have been speaking to parents who drop their children off near the school but across the street, "in a manner that requires that the student cross a lane of traffic before reaching the sidewalk. If the student is passing from behind the vehicle, in addition to jay walking, the student is stepping into oncoming traffic from a blind position."

While parents have been asked to use designated drop-off areas, the board asked for RCMP presence to deter this behaviour.

RCMP is also asked to watch for distracted drivers around schools.

"The need to carry on a conversation with passengers, another on the cell phone, while finishing off the morning coffee and rushing to ensure that the mayhem of getting the family to school doesn't become grounds for work conflict are some of the self-imposed pressures that compromise safety," writes Lento. "Your increased presence in school zones at the beginning and end of the school day would further encourage/educate distracted drivers."

The board also asks for attention to the pedestrian crossings on 14th Avenue in front of Mount Baker Secondary.

"The pedestrian traffic flowing from Mount Baker Secondary at 11:30 a.m., matching the vehicular traffic along 14th Avenue, is unacceptable. Drivers have to negotiate traffic from two side streets while attempting to anticipate the pattern of student flow onto the crosswalk," reads the letter. "There have been a number of attempts to convince the City of Cranbrook to implement a controlled crossing at this point."

The letter concludes by asking for the RCMP's encouragement in making changes related to these problems.

"We appreciate the efforts taken in our communities to increase the safety for our students," Lento writes. "We are not asking that RCMP members be posted at each school zone as we realize and appreciate the difficulty of addressing growing demands in a climate of diminishing resources. We do believe, however, that the occasional patrol of our school zones and your voice of support in encouraging additional traffic control in particular high need areas, would improve safety for our children."

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