Media release 31 October 2006 – Increased Accident Risks for Children from School Closures

Save Our Schools today accused the Stanhope Government of neglecting student safety in its rush to close schools.

SOS spokesperson, Trevor Cobbold, said that a sample survey of schools proposed for closure has highlighted a number of “black spots” which will place children at greater risk of traffic accidents in walking or cycling to another school.

“There are potential ‘black spots’ where children will be at major risk of traffic accidents around Giralang, Isabella Plains, Narrabundah, Weston and Yarralumla. Other suburbs where children travelling to and from school will face significant traffic safety risks include Chifley (Melrose PS), Cook, Flynn, Melba (Mt. Rogers PS), Rivett and Scullin/Page (Southern Cross PS).

“Many parents in these suburbs fear for the safety of their children walking or cycling to a school outside their suburb. They say that existing traffic safety infrastructure is inadequate to ensure the safety of increased numbers of young children walking or cycling to school across busy roads.

“Many Giralang children attending Kaleen or Maribyrnong primary schools will have to cross both Chuculba Cr. and Maribyrnong Av., neither of which is adequately controlled by pedestrian crossings or traffic lights for Giralang children. Maribyrnong Av. is particularly busy at peak times. Both of these roads are sites for speed cameras, and according to Road User Services, the location of speed cameras are ‘sites are based on speed-related crash history and current speed surveys’. Children going in the other direction will have to negotiate William Slim Dr. and Owen Dixon Dr., both major roads with heavy traffic at peak times.

“Children from Isabella Plains PS face serious traffic hazards in attending another school. Isabella Plains is bounded on all sides by major arterial roads. Pedestrian access from Isabella Plains to primary schools in Richardson, Monash, and Calwell is difficult and involves crossing major roads. For almost the full length of the eastern and southern boundary roads, the zones are 80 km/h with no underpass, median strip, crossing, or traffic lights. Parents say that additional traffic lights and pedestrian crossings will be needed to reduce safety risks.

“If Narrabundah PS and Yarralumla are converted to P-3 schools, Year 4-6 children will face major traffic hazards. Narrabundah children will have to cross either Jerrabomberra Av. or Sturt Av. in order to attend Red Hill PS and Yarralumla children will have to cross Adelaide Av. to attend Forrest PS. These are major roads without adequate pedestrian crossings.

“Similar safety problems exist for Weston PS children. The alternative schools (Duffy, Arawang and Chapman) are not accessible in a safe way for the large majority of residents of Weston. Access to Arawang PS involves crossing the major thoroughfare of Hindmarsh Dr, which has no safe crossing except for a small corner of Weston. Other major roads that will have to be crossed in attending other schools include Namatjira Dr. and Streeton Dr.”

Mr. Cobbold said that the school closure plan is likely to result in increased traffic accidents involving school children unless the Government takes immediate action.

“Up to 4,000 students will be displaced by the proposed full and partial school closures and will have to travel longer distances to school, many of them by walking or cycling. If additional traffic safety measures are not provided, it is inevitable that there will be many more traffic accidents involving young children travelling to and from school.

“Until now, the planning of Canberra’s suburbs with neighbourhood primary schools has been instrumental in minimising traffic incidents involving school children. However, the Stanhope Government’s school closure plan breaks with this planning approach, and it puts school children at much increased risk from accidents in travelling to and from school.

Mr. Cobbold called on the ACT Government to guarantee that adequate traffic safety infrastructure will be in place to ensure the safety of students walking or cycling longer distances to school as a result of school closures.

“To date, the Stanhope Government has failed to respond to parent concerns about the safety of young children who have to cross major roads in order to access another school. It has failed to ensure that adequate safety arrangements will be in place by the beginning of next year.

“The Minister for the Territory and Municipal Services, John Hargreaves, has admitted that no assessment has been done on what additional measures are needed to ensure student safety. This is a gross neglect of Ministerial responsibilities.

“The Minister should guarantee that adequate safety infrastructure will be provided. He should immediately undertake an audit of the traffic safety infrastructure in the regions where schools are proposed for closure and to publish the results.”

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