Telegraph Voices: Should more be done to clamp down on motorists abusing traffic regulations around schools at drop off and pick up times?

For our latest edition of Telegraph Voices, we asked a panel of experts in Sheffield whether more should be done to clamp down on motorists abusing traffic regulations around schools at drop off and pick up times.

Wednesday, 27th November 2019, 10:05 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th November 2019, 10:09 am
Pupils walk along Bannerdale Road in Sheffield where a School Streets road closure was trialled between Holt House Infant and Carterknowle Junior schools during drop-off and pick-up times (pic: Chris Etchells)

Last week, no through traffic was allowed on Bannerdale Road between the junctions with Abbeydale Road and Carter Knowle Road, during school drop-off and pick-up times in a bid to make the streets safer for pupils at Holt House Infant and Carterknowle Junior schools and encourage more children to walk, cycle or scoot to those schools and reduce pollution.

The week-long trial formed part of the School Streets scheme which, if successful, could be rolled out at schools across the city.

Following this, The Sheffield Telegraph decided to ask a panel of experts whether we need tighter restrictions for motorists who flout the restrictions around schools during busy periods.

Jenny Johnson, Parent Governor at the Holt House and Carterknowle Schools Federation

Jenny Johnson, Parent Governor at the Holt House and Carterknowle Schools Federation

School drop off and pick up is a frantic time of the day.

Parents and carers are often getting ready to dash off to work or run errands at the same time as trying to get their primary school aged kids to have any sense of urgency regarding getting to school.

For some there is little choice but to drive and it is often very busy on the roads. Unfortunately zig zag and double yellow lines are ignored by a small minority of drivers but this small number make the roads less safe for all.

Tom Finnegan-Smith, Head of Strategy, Transport and Infrastructure at Sheffield City Council

This is why initiatives such as School Streets, seen this week at Holt House and Carterknowle Schools, are so important - habits need to change and the occasional traffic warden doesn't seem to have a prolonged effect unfortunately.

Road safety isn't the only issue, air quality is of vital importance particularly to children and anti-idling legislation difficult to uphold (as seen by the extremely low rate of fines).

We need to take responsibility for our own actions and their effect on others.

This includes employers allowing more flexibility for their workforce and government funding public transport, cycle and pedestrian schemes.

Paul Thornely, Assistant Headteacher at Newfield School

I believe the answer to the question is yes, more should be done to clamp down on motorists abusing traffic regulations around schools at drop off and pick up times. However, as it is impossible to place a traffic warden outside every school every day we need to come up with different ways to encourage and enable people to change their behaviour.

Tom Finnegan-Smith, Head of Strategy, Transport and Infrastructure at Sheffield City Council

Despite living less than two miles away, 46% of Primary age children are driven to school, according to Department for Transport’s National Travel Survey 2014.

Driving our children to and from school may seem like the safest and most convenient method, but idling engines and traffic can have serious consequences.

Children are some of the most vulnerable road users, and statistics from 2013 show that one child dies every week as the result of a road traffic accident, while a further 37 are seriously injured. 58% of these accidents take place on the way home from school.

What’s more, air pollution is contributing to respiratory conditions, with research published by Lancet showing that 12% of asthma in young children is directly attributable to poor air quality.

Most people will be aware of the yellow zig-zag road markings and signage that prevent parking outside schools, but Sheffield has also recently introduced fines to those drivers with idling engines outside schools. We want to inform and educate drivers, so that they change their behaviour. Where this doesn’t happen, we are undertaking enforcement.

Schools are also getting involved. Modeshift STARS (The National Accreditation Scheme and online travel planning tool) helps schools set up initiatives to encourage children and parents to choose sustainable and active travel.

Around 50 Sheffield schools are Modeshift STARS accredited, delivering a wide range of initiatives being implemented to encourage active travel, as well as safe and considerate parking.

The Council is currently trialling road closures outside schools to see the impact a limited or traffic free environment could have, and the feedback so far is very positive.

We hope that such schemes raise awareness of the benefits, such as reducing obesity and giving parents a chance to spend more quality time with their children. Many may even find it quicker and easier to walk to school, rather than sitting in traffic.

Furthermore, walking and cycling are great life skills and allow children to learn about road safety too.

To join Modeshift STARS, visit www.modeshiftstars.org. We’ve also recently launched Clean Air Sheffield. Find out more at www.sheffield.gov.uk/cleanair.

Paul Thornely, Assistant Headteacher at Newfield Secondary School

Traffic regulations around schools have been placed there to protect students, parents, staff and drivers at extremely busy times of the day. It is, therefore, of the upmost importance that these regulations are upheld.

Parking in restricted areas increases the risk of injury and death as pedestrians have limited visibility and often have to move into the roads at inappropriate places. This can be even more apparent with smaller students.

Evidence from Sheffield City Council shows that air pollution in Sheffield alone is contributing to over 500 preventable deaths a year. Sheffield has been in breach of the legal limits for Nitrogen Dioxide levels since January 2010.

Non-idling regulations around schools are designed to help to protect young people, who along with the elderly are the most susceptible to this, from air pollution. Parking further away from schools and ensuring that all engines are switched off will improve the air quality, not only around the schools but for the city in general.

A far greater concern is the number of unnecessary journeys that are made to and from schools across the city and the country as a whole. It is essential that more is done to encourage students to find alternative modes of travel.

The health benefits, both physical and mental, for students are immense. Exercise, socialising with friends, both old and new, can only be positive. Students can walk, cycle, scoot or use public transport but we need a targeted and integrated strategy. Parents, staff and students need to be educated as to the impact that car travel is having on the health of the nation and the planet, they need to see the benefits of being out in the open air, yes believe it or not we are all waterproof!

Coupled with this we need investment in public transport, making it accessible and affordable for all. Clamping down on current restrictions helps but to make a real difference we need a change in beliefs and infrastructure.