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Not so fast! Grade 5 students get a firsthand lesson in speeding outside their school

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Grade 5 students in Stittsville had class outdoors Tuesday, to see firsthand what traffic is like right outside their school.

The group of about 30 at St. Stephen's Catholic School on Stittsville Main Street walked to the nearest intersection at Hazeldean Road and used radar guns to see just how fast some drivers were going.

They learned the rules of the road from Cindy Embury-Mulhern, a crossing guard who sees dangerous driving every day.

"I hope they get just a real life experience… seeing the distractions, seeing the people running the red lights, looking at their cell phones, jaywalking, because I can tell them all the stories in the world," she says. "But for them to actually see it, I think it becomes more real for them. And then hopefully in a couple of years when they're driving, they'll remember this and they won't do those things all the time."

Student Brielle Lawson said she noticed one thing right away, "A lot of cars are going very fast and over the limit."

It is all part of the Ottawa Safety Council's WalkSafe Program, which teaches students as early as kindergarten how to be a safe road user — from pedestrian to driver.

Jamie Kwong with the safety council says it's a valuable lesson. "They get to see for themselves how fast cars are going on the streets that are right by their school."

Leah Sinuita nabbed a few drivers going 70 km/h down Hazeldean Road, where the speed limit is 60 km/h, and says it "wasn't that safe of a driver because he was more focused on his speed" than on the road.

"It's not good to speed because, like, people can go really fast and then it could cause a car accident," classmate Charlotte Billows added.

Kwong says she hopes this lesson can carry over when these students eventually become drivers.

"This is something that we're trying to work on at the Ottawa Safety Council, that education. Preventative road safety education is so important to building a culture where, when they grow up 10 years from now and get their license, they're paying attention to how fast they're driving and knowing that when they increase their speeds, the risk."

But it wasn't just a lesson in speeding. Students also witnessed dangerous driving habits, like distracted driving. Noah Murphy says it can put everyone else at risk. "Distracted driving is when you call someone, when somebody is texting somewhere… if they're not focusing on the road, then they can cause another collision."

David Poulton, another student, says, "You could hurt people."

Kwong says distracted driving is become more of a problem, even around school zones.

"Right now it's about not paying attention to your phone, not playing around with your radio, not being intoxicated and impaired and that when you're focused on driving, you have a responsibility. Your life, your passengers' lives, and other people's lives are at your fingertips. And we want everyone to take that responsibility. And everyone plays a responsibility in keeping our roads safer for everybody, especially for kids."

It was a lesson learned for students like Lilah Symes.

"I learned that some people are not following the rules of the road and are going too fast and are getting distracted way too easily," said Symes. "It's not good because if someone is trying to drive and then the other person's distracted, they could get in a crash or they could get seriously hurt." 

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