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Volunteers teach pedestrian safety to school children in Fort Macleod

Crossing safety

Volunteers like Sharon Strachan (left) and Tara Walker are educating Fort Macleod children on crossing safety.

Volunteer Shelby Austin

Volunteer Shelby Austin shows a student how to use her ‘pointer’ when crossing the street.

A small group of volunteers are teaching W.A. Day school students an important lesson that will last a lifetime.
The five volunteers are charged with educating the Grade 1-5 students about pedestrian safety.
Twice daily from Monday to Friday, the volunteers are stationed at the intersection of Highway 3 westbound and Fifth Avenue.
Dressed in bright fluorescent orange and yellow vests, the adult volunteers show groups of students how to press the button to activate the crossing lights, extend an arm or “pointer,” make eye contact with drivers and to make sure the wheels on vehicles have stopped turning before they step into the intersection.
“The school has the AMA School Safety Patrol program to help kids cross the street safely in the school zone, however community members raised concern over small children having to cross the highway,” said Ronda Reach, who is a member of the Fort Macleod Traffic Safety Committee. “The volunteers aren’t crossing guards and they aren’t there to direct traffic, they have come forward to help teach the children to be safe pedestrians and provide that visual reminder to motorists.”
According to southwest Alberta statistics collected in 2013 for the Alberta Traffic Safety Plan, 49 pedestrians were injured when they were hit by vehicles.
The concern for students’ safety was raised last spring after several close calls as students crossed the one-way on their way to and from school.
Lessons were arranged to instruct students about the “Point. Pause. Proceed” approach to pedestrian safety, which emphasizes that the students must make eye contact with drivers to be sure the vehicles are slowing.
Parents and teachers remained concerned that the students were still at risk when crossing the busy one-way, noting many drivers were not slowing to 50 km-h while others were distracted as they checked their phones.
The Fort Macleod Traffic Safety Committee, which has representation from the RCMP, Town of Fort Macleod Protective Services, Alberta Health Services, AMA and the Office of Traffic Safety, set up an adult crossing educator team to watch out for pedestrians during the morning and afternoon peak times.
Allison Pike, a school safety patrol co-ordinator for the Alberta Motor Association, was enlisted to instruct volunteers to train students to be safe at the curb.
The volunteers spend about 30 minutes at the intersection in the morning and after school is dismissed.
“We are here to educate the children to cross safely,” volunteer Lucille Provost said. “We are not going to walk them across, we are going to teach them to cross safely on their own.”
Provost decided to get involved after learning of some near-misses.
“There were some scary stories that I heard about speeders, about people not stopping,” Provost said.
“I’ve just driven by this intersection and seen too many close calls,” volunteer Shelby Austin said. “When I heard about it, I thought it was a great idea and I’m happy to help.”
Austin said children have the mistaken belief that when they push the button to activate the crossing lights, vehicles will automatically stop.
Austin has also witnessed drivers pull out from behind stopped vehicles to pass them through the crosswalk.
“What I really like about this program is it’s teaching the children how to look and what to look for,” Austin said. “They’re not just waiting for us to tell them when it’s safe to cross.”
At present, there are only enough volunteers signed up to cover the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Highway 3 westbound.
“Our goal and our hope is to get coverage on the other one-way,” Provost said. “We’re looking out for volunteers so we can have both one-ways covered for the safety of the children.”
The children have responded well to having the adults at the intersection to provide guidance.
“We want Fort Macleod residents to understand who these volunteers are and that they play a key role to help keep our kids’ safe,” Reach said. “And we want to send a message to drivers to always drive safely and be aware. This is our community, it’s where we live, work and play and to look out for one another.”
For more information or to volunteer contact Ronda Reach at 403-553-5353 or
This is the first program of its kind in Alberta.
Kevin Brandvold of the Office of Traffic Safety said education is needed for drivers as well.
Driving through a crosswalk that is occupied by a pedestrian carries a $777 fine and six demerit points.