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Police focusing on distracted drivers, school zone safety

Last Updated Sep 8, 2015 at 12:49 pm EDT

The lunches were packed, pencil cases were labelled, and new outfits were ready to go as thousands of students across the GTA marked the first day of school.

But along with the return to class comes the return to heavier traffic. Motorists are reminded to slow down to 40 km/h in school zones and be on the lookout for children.

Toronto police, in partnership with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), launched a back-to-school campaign focusing on traffic safety.

The week-long “Are you focused on school?” campaign started on Tuesday and ends on Friday. It kicked off at Forest Manor Public School, near Don Mills Road and Sheppard Avenue East, at 7 a.m.

Officers will be focusing on “road-users who jeopardize the safety of the public through their poor decisions and behaviours.”

Police will be targeting distracted and aggressive drivers, those making prohibited turns, and not adhering to “No Stopping” and “No Parking” restrictions within school zones.

During the campaign, police will also be paying close attention to drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians in school zones, pedestrian crossovers, crosswalks, intersections and high-risk mid-block crossing.

Last week, heftier fines for distracted driving and rules to help protect cyclists and students went into effect, as part of the province’s new rules of the road.

Penalties for distracted driving include an increased set fine of $490 and three demerit points upon conviction. However, a judge could further increase the amount up to $1,000, if the case goes to court. Drivers without a full license will receive a 30-day suspension for the first conviction for distracted driving.

Drivers also face a steep fine for not stopping for a school bus that has stopped and activated its flashing red lights. Vehicles behind or approaching the bus must come to a full stop before reaching the bus. Failure to do so will result in a minimum $400 fine and six demerit points for a first offence.

Similar campaigns are also being held in York and Peel Regions with a focus on distracted driving and pedestrian safety in school zones.

Coun. Norm Kelly is also asking pedestrians to extend their arms and point in the direction they want to walk when using crosswalks.

“Three per cent of pedestrian injuries and fatalities in Toronto occur at marked crosswalks,” Kelly said. “Getting the attention of motorists before crossing the street eliminates the possibility of a collision.”

A lot of people on Twitter reacted to Kelly’s tweet, a lot calling him “dad.”

Parents are also being asked to review the pedestrian safety rules with their children. Click here for some back-to-school safety tips.

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