The school run is rife with stress for many parents. Getting children to their place of learning and heading off to work is often a race against the clock, but parents and caregivers pulling up outside the school gates could now face a hefty penalty.

To protect the safety of children, counties around the UK are trying to tackle traffic around schools. Leicestershire County Council has made the news with its ‘School Keep Clear’ scheme. Costing half a million pounds, the scheme includes a camera patrol car and more parking restrictions around schools.

Smile for the camera

The patrol car, driven by Enforcement Officers, uses a mounted camera with automatic number-plate recognition (ANPR) to catch parents found parked on zigzag markings outside their children’s schools.

Offenders will receive an automatic fine of £70 through the post, and, as with all parking fines, seeks to act as both punishment and a deterrent against repeating the violation.

Thirty-two Leicester schools who already have the mandatory markings are taking part in the scheme. A further 25 schools have signed up, awaiting work to make the zigzag zones enforceable.

Leicester was one county to install child-shaped bollards outside one of their schools, to get motorists to reduce their speed in the 20mph zone, by fooling drivers into thinking schoolchildren were trying to cross the road. The bollards cost £350 each, yet a car soon hit one.

After guidance from health organisations, some local authorities are considering ‘no-idling’ zones, to safeguard children against pollution, with fines for motorists who leave their cars running outside schools.

Other areas are going further by closing the roads around schools to most traffic during the school run, with some using temporary bollards at drop-off and collection times.

Even people without children will agree that the safety of children is an important issue. Reducing the chance of a road traffic incident and health problems from the pollution cars cause—for residents living near schools, too—is something to encourage. Yet, gone are the days when all children attend their nearest school and, with both parents often working, many people are trying to balance the school run and their own drive to work. These parents may have little choice but to use their cars.

Driving a wedge

In Leicester, Councillor Blake Pain, Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport said:

“We’re launching the scheme which essentially makes more zigzag zones enforceable outside schools and we believe it will go some way to alleviating concerns.

“We work closely with schools and colleges to improve issues around on-street parking as well as pedestrian and pupil safety and we invited schools to register their interest in the scheme.

“Ideally, the schools and local communities will work together to encourage parents to park appropriately on the school run, and we provide help and guidance on school travel plans to help tackle the problem where necessary.”

Despite much support for such traffic-calming around our schools, the measures will not be popular with others.

Paul Whiteman, General Secretary at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said many parents had to make the school run via car on their way to work, and many schools and surrounding roads were not equipped for this reality, leading to congestion, pollution and road safety issues.

He added: “Fines are often a blunt tool for councils to use, and can drive a wedge between parents and schools even though head teachers have no role in administering them.

“Councils must work with schools and local communities to ensure that roads around schools work for everyone,” he said.

Striding for change

It may come as no surprise that yellow zigzag markings have confused many drivers over the years. While rule 243 of the Highway Code says drivers cannot stop or park near a school entrance unless forced to do so by stationary traffic, the rules are a tad ambiguous.

Although parking on the zigzag lines isn’t always an offence, these markings are to warn drivers not to park, for the safety of children. Therefore, you may commit an offence by ignoring the markings if you cause an obstruction, and, while the local authorities can’t issue a penalty, the police can give you a ticket.

In some areas, the zigzag lines come along with a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) which makes it an offence to park and could land drivers with a Penalty Charge Notice fine (PCN), but these areas must have a sign to warn drivers. Without the sign, yellow zigzag lines are not legally enforceable. A PCN is a civil matter, not a criminal one and won’t result in a criminal record or points on your licence.

If you find yourself never able to park near your children’s school and it’s not impossible for you to get the kids to class any other way, why not consider an alternative mode of transport?

Lots of schools work together with the council and UK Sustainable Transport Charity, Sustrans to encourage schoolchildren to get to school without the car. There are schemes such as ‘Park and Stride’, Walking Buses, and other initiatives designed to encourage pupils to cycle, scoot, or walk to school.

Not only do these car substitutes reduce gridlock around schools and reduce pollution, but they also give children their important daily exercise. Something we can all agree is a good idea.

Are you a parent struggling to park during the school run? What do you think about these school traffic-calming measures? Do you live or drive near a school where these actions are in force? Give your opinion in the comments.

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