Governors, staff and parents at Whiteabbey Primary have launched a campaign aimed at improving road safety in the vicinity of the school.
A significant increase in traffic on the Old Manse Road in recent years, combined with irresponsible parking practices outside the school gates, has prompted the Board of Governors to set up a Road Safety Sub Committee.
Although there have been no major incidents at the school, recent tragic events elsewhere have prompted staff and governors to take a proactive approach to road safety.
Principal Peter Wright said that more than 300 of the school’s 420 pupils currently travel to and from school by car. And he stressed that the sheer number of cars, combined with some parents’ poor parking habits, means pupils and other pedestrians are being put in danger.
Indeed Mr Wright revealed that just last week a P7 pupil was lucky to escape injury when he was struck by the wing mirror of a passing car.
“We don’t have any crossing areas, there is no patrol man on that road, so if the children are cutting across the road, especially where we have a tree blocking the footpath, they are walking between parked cars. There are cars and vans going up and down that road so somebody is going to get clipped some day,” he warned.
The new committee has two main aims - to lobby relevant agencies in order to secure road safety improvements; and win the hearts and minds of motorists, particularly parents, and get them to change their parking habits during the school run.
Leaflets are being given out to parents asking them to obey the existing parking restrictions at the entrance to the school. But the committee is also working with the police and DRD on the possibility of introducing peak time restrictions which can be enforced by traffic wardens.
As well as encouraging responsible parking, the committee is also seeking to reduce the volume of traffic by getting more pupils to walk, scoot or cycle to school.
Parent governor Catherine Johnson, who has two children at the school, said it will take a joined up approach to address the current problem.
“We want to try and be proactive rather than reactive. There have been a lot of accidents recently outside schools and we don’t want something like that to happen at Whiteabbey Primary.
“We all have a responsibility, whether it’s Board of Governors, staff, parents, pupils, residents - we all have a part to play to ensure that all the children can enter and exit the building in a safe manner,” she said.
As part of its campaign, the school held a ‘Neon Day’ on December 15 in conjunction with sustainable transport charity Sustrans when pupils were encouraged to walk, scoot or cycle to school, and to ‘be bright and be seen’ by wearing high visibility clothing.
Further initiatives being planned by the committee include a Road Safety Week, which will involve the PSNI’s local Road Education Officer.