Back to school brings heightened monitoring by police and township officials

The streets will be busier at kids head back to school next week.

Getting back to work after the coming long weekend will be joined by back to school, making the roads a bit more crowded than they’ve been for a few months. For drivers who may be a little rusty behind the wheel, police and township bylaw enforcement officers will be out in numbers next week.

Officials are in fact already reminding drivers to take heed.

“I think the biggest thing is just that drivers forget,” said Jeff Smith, deputy clerk for Woolwich Township. “If you went to work on August 31, the volume is significantly different on September 4. You’ll have buses; you’ll have school crossings, you’ll even just have a few more parents out there driving kids to school. So I think the volume’s increase, and some parents or some drivers just forget about that. And we want to make sure that people aren’t frustrated or upset and doing anything that would cause a safety concern.”

There are statistically more traffic incidents around new school buildings, in particular, notes Waterloo Regional Police Staff Sgt. Michael Hinsberger.

“Some of the areas like that were high-volume areas, in combination with some of the newer schools. Those areas we certainly like to watch and do a lot of enforcement at,” he said, pointing to the example of a new Kitchener school last year that came under scrutiny.

“There was, indeed, an area that we focused a lot of enforcement for speeders or other aggressive driving offenses … because drivers aren’t necessarily aware that it’s a new school area. And certainly, the students in some of those cases, because it’s a new school that they’re attending, aren’t as familiar as some of the other areas where the schools are a little bit more established.

“So areas like that, we like to try to focus on to some degree.”

An example of a local caution area is the Sawmill Road, Conestogo area, scene of some construction this year and last. There has been research done by both the township and police to target problem areas, and measures are taken to avoid any incidents this year.

Typically, that means heavy police presence in these areas, hiring a sufficient amount of crossing guards, and public reminders to raise awareness of the upcoming heavy traffic.

Local areas that will feature crossing guards include John Mahood Public School, Riverside Public School, St. Jacobs Public School, St. Boniface School in Maryhill, Conestogo Public School, and Breslau Public School.

Region-wide, there has been a history of reckless driving incidents as the school year starts, say police.

“Last year we certainly had a number of incidents from traffic stops,” said Hinsberger. “We had several stunt driving incidents where vehicles were speeding through the school areas, to the extreme where we had to impound a vehicle and lay stunt driving charges.

“So, again, those are some of the extreme cases, and it’s not that they’re in high numbers, but those are certainly incidents of concern from our end.

“Hopefully, we can try to cut those numbers down.”

Officials remind drivers to be more attentive and cautious starting next week.

“We have been putting ads out to remind drivers that sometimes it takes a little bit longer to get to work,” said Smith. “You know, stop when you see the stop sign, stay stopped, that kind of thing.”

“I think everybody’s aware of when school’s starting, and we’re certainly going to be out in full force from an enforcement standpoint, with vehicle enforcement and traffic enforcement in the school areas,” added Hinsberger. “Just a reminder for everybody to watch out for the little ones especially, they’re not used to being out walking in and around those areas.”

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