OUR SAY: Stiffer school zone penalties justified … for the kids

DANGER ZONE: The NSW government has announced tougher penalties for some offences when they occur in school zones.
DANGER ZONE: The NSW government has announced tougher penalties for some offences when they occur in school zones.

LET’S start by stating the obvious: No one likes getting a driving fine.

Anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of a traffic infringement ticket knows all too well the feelings of anger and frustration, the overriding post-police discussion urge desire to wind up the window, grip the steering wheel with forceful fury and bellow ‘why me!’ at the top of your lungs.

For those with less-than-stellar motoring records, and even many of those with unblemished records, news that the NSW government has considerably stiffened up penalties for some driving offences in school zones will be cause for preemptive rage.

Unnecessary, they’ll cry. Cash grab, they’ll scream.

But statistics for speeding and other offences in school zones in Orange and across the state show an important message has not really got through to enough motorists.

With the NSW government’s long-term roll out of flashing speed limit signs around school zones, road safety officials would have expected the number of drivers breaking the law to be falling.

In fact the data shows nothing of the sort: The numbers for speeding and illegally-parked drivers has remained stubbornly high.

The habits some drivers have picked up include pulling into ‘No Stopping’ zones and queuing across intersections, including roundabouts, as they try to minimise their drop-off or pick-up time.

The most common justifications include “everyone’s doing it” or “it’s not hurting anyone”.

In both instances, the excuse-makers have missed the greater point – that children are unpredictable pedestrians who allowances need to be made for.

They often do not make rational decisions about when to cross the road or wait for a car, and even when they do pause to look they are not good at calculating distance or the speed of an approaching vehicle.

Their size also makes them more likely to suffer a serious injury if they are struck by a car.

That is why the law puts the onus squarely on the shoulders of drivers to slow right down and make sensible, legal decisions about where to position their vehicle when in the vicinity of a school’s gates.

Forty kilometres might seem agonisingly slow for a driver running late for work but it will seem terrifyingly fast if a child darts onto the road metres in front of their bonnet.

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