PEABODY, MA — North Shore residents who went back-to-school shopping this past week may have gotten a reminder of several initiatives the Peabody School Zone Safety task force is reminding drivers and students about ahead of the first days of school across the region.
School safety advocate Marie Scheri reminded students to walk safely by using crosswalks and following directions of crossing guards, while she urged drivers to pledge to obey school zone safety rules, including stopping for school buses picking up and dropping off children, as well as keeping speeds below 20 miles per hour.
Everyone who took the safety pledge was able to spin the prize wheel.
“As we gear up for ‘back to school’ it was great to be able to talk with adults about stopping for the school buses and for school crossing guards and the kids to make sure they are paying attention when they cross the street,” Scheri told Patch on Wednesday. “No one wants to hit a kid with their car, no kids want to get hit by a car — so this was a terrific opportunity to get out there and remind everyone that we all need to do our part to stay safe.”
Scheri was among the advocates for a novel data-collection pilot program in Peabody that will put cameras on the arms of some school bus stop signs to gauge compliance with the state law
requiring oncoming drivers to stop for students when they are extended. Peabody Mayor and School Committee Chair Ted Bettencourt announced plans for the program in March.
Spurred by three incidents last fall where students were hit when drivers passed school buses stopped to discharge or pick up children in the city, stakeholders held a series of meetings through last winter and spring that led to the agreement with the company BusPatrol to administer the pilot program starting this school year.
Under the pilot program, the cameras will be used to collect data — which the school and Peabody
Police Department can use to determine the extent of the problem and locations in the city where it is worst and that need further patrols.
Barring the enaction of a state law that has been stalled on Beacon Hill for more than a decade, the camera footage itself cannot be used to issue a citation for drivers. However, Bettencourt said at the time that he believed the footage could help finally push the legislation along to pass the law.
Scheri started an online campaign called STOP — Stop The Operator from Passing — to increase awareness of the issue, police presence around frequent student crossings and advocate for pushing for the state law.
Boston Children’s Hospital, AAA Massachusetts, Safe Routes to School, and Torigian YMCA contributed educational material and prizes for the Northshore Mall events.
(Scott Souza is a Patch field editor covering Beverly, Danvers, Marblehead, Peabody, Salem and Swampscott. He can be reached at Scott.Souza@Patch.com. Twitter: @Scott_Souza.)