School run CCTV - safer kids or swelling coffers?

The kids are back at school after half-term and, as anyone who has to endure the daily school run will attest, it is one of the most stressful times of the day. Even when the kids are at their most cooperative and you get out of the house on time, you then have to deal with the traffic chaos around the school as desperate parents frantically hunt for a parking space while simultaneously avoiding the myriad of yellow road markings.

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For some, though, the temptation to stop on the double yellows or zig-zags while the kids jump out proves just too great. But while it might make their morning a little easier, it not only adds to everyone else’s aggravation but makes the roads more hazardous for those on foot. And so, in what is sure to be a controversial move, seven local councils are to set-up surveillance cameras that will switch on during the school run in an attempt to catch those parents who park or stop illegally.

In it for the money?

The seven local councils, including five in London, have agreed to trial the CCTV-style camera systems that can read the number plates of cars which stop on zig-zag or double yellow lines for more than a few seconds. The cameras will be fitted to buildings or existing street furniture around schools, and any images they take will be relayed back to a central control room. The local authorities can then use this information to issue fines of up to £70, or as much as £130 in London. The systems will be supplied by Videalert, a company that specialises in traffic management, at a cost of around £16,000 per unit, which it’s estimated is still three times cheaper than using police and camera cars parked outside schools. However, many will view it as yet another money-making scheme for local councils, and some motoring groups have already hit out at the plans and suggested the cameras will only be put in place to make more easy money from motorists. And it’s a difficult point to argue against, particularly given that local authorities already pull in some £340mllion from fines and penalties. But then you also have to consider that more than 1,000 children a month are injured on roads around British schools. Throw in the RoSPA statistic that casualty rates peak for children at 8am and at 3.30pm and you see that there really is a problem that needs addressing on the roads around our schools.

Keeping our kids safe

It’s easy to jump onto the defensive where CCTV is concerned as no-one likes the idea that they’re being watched and it’s true motorists have become an easy target for cash-hungry councils. However, it’s also easy to forget that the double yellow lines and zig-zags are placed outside school grounds for a reason, and that parking on them makes it considerably more difficult for children to cross the road safely. And I for one, as both a motorist and a parent, would welcome the introduction of any technology that makes the roads around schools safer and put a stop to the selfish motorists who park irresponsibly yet still make out they are the victims. A good idea for safer roads? Or a cynical money-making scheme? Tell us what you think...

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