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As children took time off school over the Christmas break, one could only hope that many parents got to work studying their own parking habits. If they did, come next week when students return to school, their safety might be intact. After all, police could be on the prowl around Central Elementary School, looking for parents who are disregarding the no parking signs and yellow curbs.
And that is exactly what was happening during the first half of the school year when many of those picking students up put everyone at risk by ignoring safety, in a mission to save maybe the minute that it would take to park in the newly designated area and walk about 50 metres — or wait for their children to walk to them.
The new parking is in an area along a fence and gravel road on Voght Street that school officials have deemed safe. Many of the parents recognize the need for the change, and the previous potential danger of kids popping out from in front of an illegally parked car into oncoming traffic. But other drivers are lazy and impatient, with some even driving around parked buses with flashing lights that indicate the possibility of roaming children.
That is exactly what happened in the parking lot at Central school one day, as an impatient parent didn’t want to wait for a student to enter the bus. No one was injured in that case, but it could be just a matter of time. A classmate of mine who attended University Hill Elementary in Vancouver when in Grade 2 was hit and paralysed from the neck down by a driver who made the illegal move to pass a bus with flashing lights. The last image I have of him was when he was being pushed around in what is best described as a wheelchair bed — he wasn’t even able to sit up.
In Merritt, Central’s principal is on record as saying convenience was winning the battle against safety, as more parents opted to park closer to the school in the no parking area. The Merritt RCMP joined the school’s fight last month, with officials saying they will ticket those who disobey the no parking signs. Time will tell whether the appeal from school and police stakeholders will change parking habits, but surely receiving a ticket will convince negligent drivers that the RCMP are serious about protecting students. The reality is, though, police shouldn’t have to force drivers to act with what should be common sense.