School run shenanigans

News from Sussex Police

Woman convicted of driving dangerously outside Crawley school

A Crawley woman has been sentenced for driving dangerously outside a school.

Leanne Andre, 43, of Friars Rookery,  Crawley, pleaded not guilty to driving dangerously in October 2014 when she appeared at Crawley Magistrates Court on 11 June, but was found guilty.

Andre received a 12-month Community Order of 90 hours unpaid work, was ordered to pay total court costs of £810 and has been disqualified from driving for 12 months as well as then having to take an extended driving test.

The incident happened in Gales Drive, Three Bridges, on the afternoon of 23 October last year.

Andre had parked her vehicle illegally in the bus stop directly outside Three Bridges primary school whilst picking up her children from the school. The local Three Bridges community policing team was patrolling the area at the time in response to numerous reports of dangerous parking  near the school at opening and closing times.

They put a notice on the windscreen of Andre’s car pointing out that it was parked illegally.

Upon Andre’s return to her car a PCSO approached her explaining why the notice had been issued. She responded by directing verbal abuse at him, and drove off. A Police Constable asked her to stop but instead she accelerated towards the officer, swerving just to avoid contact, and continued gaining speed as she drove away, giving no consideration to the parents and children who were waiting, as she claimed she was in a rush.

Officers had the registration number and description of the car and subsequently went to Andre’s home nearby to arrange to inteview her under caution.

PC Jo Millard said; “Andre’s actions on that day were irresponsible and dangerous. We will take action against offenders driving in such an anti-social and dangerous manner.”

No doubt this would have been a full-page spread in the Daily Mail, coupled with earnest coverage on Radio 4, if Andre had abused and threatened police officers while on a bike. ‘Do cyclists have entitlement issues?’ ‘Is it time for cyclists to wear number plates to curb their bad behaviour?’ ‘Do they need to wear hi-viz identification vests?’

But as it is, it will pass completely under the radar, just another example of everyday traffic violence that passes without comment.

Bloody cyclists.

But this isn’t even why this story caught my attention – I spotted where Andre lives. Friars Rookery. Which is…

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 08.58.10… 300 metres from Three Bridges Primary School.

It is, literally, just down the road – so close the police officers could presumably see her turning back into her own street.

Crawley is a New Town, meaning most of the main roads in it are lovely and wide. Cycling infrastructure (sometimes of reasonable quality, mostly of dubious quality) did arrive on the major roads, but unfortunately residential distributors like Gales Drive didn’t get any.

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 09.11.50No continuous footways across the side roads either, meaning young children walking to school have to ‘take responsibility’ for crossing side roads while dangerous and aggressive drivers like Andre emerge out of them to take their own children to school.

Slow clap, Britain.

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29 Responses to School run shenanigans

  1. Simon H says:

    Without knowing whether it applies in this case, I suspect a lot of people dropping kids off at school in the car are then continuing on to work and other appointments elsewhere, so it’s a bit of a bootstrapping problem. They’ll need to be able to cycle or walk safely and easily for the next leg of their journey before they consider doing so for the home-school leg.

    • ORiordan says:

      Still, walking 300m to drop off the kids at school then walking 300m back home to get the car would take, what, 4-5 minutes? Or in other words, about the time to eat a bowl of cereal…😉

      I find it difficult to believe that people have THAT busy a life that saving 4-5 minutes time justifies putting others at risk.

      • ORiordan says:

        … just to add, it may not be even saving 4-5 minutes compared with the time to bundle the kids into the car, getting them all strapped in (presumably…) and the time to drive as well.

        • We ought to be making it safe and convenient to walk and cycle rather than drive but, from experience, I can say that you shouldn’t underestimate the convenience of cars for getting your kids out of the front door. No gloves, coats, or umbrellas needed. If one child is lagging or in a strop, you get the first strapped in safely while you go back for the other. It’s easy to bung in unwieldy cardboard box models, delicate cakes for the sale, musical instruments, PE bags etc without worrying whether you can comfortably carry them.
          Of course, if it was safer, far more of our children would walk or cycle by themselves and save parents huge amounts of time and effort on a double roundtrip every day for 7 or more years.

          • platinum says:

            I can say that you shouldn’t underestimate the convenience of Dutch bikes/cargo bikes for getting your kids out of the front door. If one child is lagging or in a strop, you get the first strapped in safely while you go back for the other. It’s easy to bung in unwieldy cardboard box models, delicate cakes for the sale, musical instruments, PE bags etc without worrying whether you can comfortably carry them.

          • Cyclestrian says:

            Also from experience I can say that this is largely illusory, although perhaps having a younger sibling in a buggy makes carrying bags/instruments.cakes easier! The children need coats/gloves, while they are at school anyway so that’s a mute point. Weather in reality never as bad as it seems from inside a car/home and certainly rarely as bad as our pessimistic forecasts. You need to walk with children some distance from school to classroom so have to carry stuff that far.

      • Word Service says:

        I work at home now, but a few years ago I worked a 45 minute drive away. I negotiated to start at 9.30 instead of 9.00am so I could take my kids to school (this was when they ere too young to walk the half mile, crossing a busy main road without a pedestrian crossing, on their own). I dropped them off at 8.45 but you were expected to wait in the playground until they went in at 9.55. This then necessitated a sprint across the park to get back to my car to drive to school. I was always late. Walking there and back when I could was much preferable (it took about 12 minutes), but there was no way I could have done that AND got to work on time. That, I guess, is why most working parents drive their kids to school, even when they live within walking distance.

  2. Myself and another parent recently got into an argument with a mother at our kids school after she kept on repeatedly floating a new one way street. The area can be seen here, https://goo.gl/maps/UI9h0 she was entering Talbot Road from the Farnley Road end driving down to park up. Her excuse was “I’m in a hurry and running late!” so presumably she can’t spare the extra couple of minutes it takes to drive round and enter from the Whitehorse Rd end like everyone else. A few others often ignored/hadn’t realized that the road has been swapped round as presumably the No Entry signs and huge “No Entry” written on the road aren’t clear enough warnings……it would also cause extra complications as with the road being made one way extra parking spaces had been added as it no longer needed passing points.

    Really does begger belief you’d drive 300m to school, having had my fair share of school run experience having 8 kids I’m fully aware of the troubles you can have getting children ready and out but we used to live about 500m away from the kids school (before we moved about 20-25mins drive away, no chance trying to relocate 4 kids into same school!) and rarely had issues getting them all round. I appreciate the “may be going onto work” aspect but even then the time it would take to drive 300m and park in school run traffic would be much larger then just walking round and back.

    • Notak says:

      “Myself and another parent recently got into an argument with a mother at our kids school after she kept on repeatedly floating a new one way street.”
      Do you live in Venice? 🙂
      (sorry!)

  3. Ian says:

    At the risk of appearing thick, why can’t she simply push them out the door and let them walk to school?

    • paulc says:

      ‘stranger danger’… worried about all the other traffic?

    • Simon says:

      Where I live (also in West Sussex) primary schools don’t allow children to walk to school unaccompanied until they are Year 6 (i.e. 10/11 years old). My kids are younger than that at the moment.

      Further, my kids would have to cross one busy 30mph (in theory) road with no appropriate crossing points (it’s hard enough as an adult) and then negotiate crossing a couple of less busy roads near the school – which, as we can see from this blog post, are not as safe as one might expect.

      I wouldn’t dream of driving, though. Even though the primary has a very small catchment area, so many parents (mums) do drive that finding a parking space is hard – I would be circling trying to find a space for longer than it would take to walk in the first place.

  4. SteveP says:

    More evidence that the most dangerous drivers in the suburbs are the School Run Moms and the most dangerous times to cycle at school start and end times.

    • Cyclestrian says:

      Agreed. Even if very considerate/careful, the sheer number of large cars driven and parked makes it much less pleasant to cycle. I’ve found that it’s a delight to cycle home with kids after 4pm (luckily there’s playground / tennis courts near our school to wind down after school).

      • when my boy was riding home by himself from primary school I used to encourage him to muck about for a bit after school B4 heading home for exactly this reason, wait until the driver parents had gone. Luckily kids don’t need much encouragement to do this….🙂

  5. Mark Small says:

    The school run is just an afterthought in this country. American kids take the school bus, Dutch children cycle, and British children have to improvise (especially if they live further than a sensible walking distance).

    • USbike says:

      Well, some American kids take the school bus. More and more are increasingly being driven or driving to school (in high school). In some urban schools, kids can still walk, but this can be prohibited in the more-suburban districts, such as my elementary school, which made a big fuss when one of the kids living almost directly across the two-lane street walked to school. From how it was explained to me, it sounded more like the concern was of “stranger danger” or kidnapping, then of traffic dangers. The total walking distance to school for this particular kid was less than 300 m.

  6. rdrf says:

    Don’t want to be overly glum, but my suspicion is that police action like this is pretty limited.

    Above all that the sentence would not have ben anything like as serious if she hadn’t driven at (or more or less at) an officer.

    Still, that’s just an argument for getting local [police, the school, school travel plan people etc. involved, as well as the general point about car dependency.

    • chrisssso says:

      The reality is if this wasn’t all directed at a police officer/PCSO then nothing would have happened at all.
      Also the police were only there following numerous reports.
      The reality is that most of the time there is no enforcement at all

  7. D. says:

    I live in a smallish village outside Bristol. The village school has a map in the lobby with points marking where the kids at the school live, and a colour designates whether they walk/cycle/get drive, whatever. The vast majority of the kids at the school are apparently driven there.

    The school doesn’t have a car park for parents, and is on a two-way street with houses on both sides (except for the bit where the school is, which has houses opposite). At school dropping off and picking up time its a nightmare, with cars parked up on the verges and pavement, reducing the road to a single lane.

    The school asks parents not to drive, and the council put no stopping signs outside the school, and its made no difference whatsoever.

    (My wife walks our kids to the school from the other side of the village and it takes about five minutes at most).

    • canamsteve says:

      I think you touch on an interesting point, which is a certain cognitive dissonance between school planning and usage. There was a time when almost all children walked (or, imagine, cycled) to school so there was no need for parking beyond a few teachers. But schools continue to be built with little or no provision for the reality that many children are delivered and retrieved by car, so these cars are forced to park illegally or circle around adding to congestion.

      One rural school I frequently cycle past is far from most homes and for a long time, it had no parking at all – the staff simply parked on the road, which retained its national speed limit (60mph) yet the playing field was on the other side! So you had the odd imbecile speeding down a one-lane road at 60mph with children passing between parked cars to get to the fields.. very scary. They now have reduced the speed limit to 30mph (still too fast, IMO) and added about ten parking spots for staff. However, it’s still a risky place at the start and end of the day with all the 4X4s jostling and waiting

  8. Was she really convicted of Dangerous Driving or is the Sussex Police article craftily worded? It says “driving dangerously” which is a subjective statement not necessarily specifying a particular offense.

    She appears to have been convicted of doing what motorists do to people on bicycles every day: “directing verbal abuse”, “swerving just to avoid contact” and (weirdly) “gaining speed as she drove away”.

    Normally killing somebody with your motor vehicle only seems to lead to a Careless Driving conviction at most. It would be very odd if behaving like a jerk became Dangerous Driving just because a police officer was involved.

  9. Jitensha Oni says:

    http://www.schoolecocheck.co.uk/schoolTravel.php?id=8782430

    some areas have the right idea, and response, (why not yours, reader?) but the active travel is mostly walking (despite the unwieldy cardboard box models, delicate cakes for the sale, musical instruments, PE bags etc). Cycling is the big loser here, and that’s because the roads are not really fit to cycle on, whereas the footways are fit to walk on, at least subjectively.

  10. Notak says:

    This post demonstrates, perhaps more than any other on the blog, the complexity of achieving a different transport policy. Hopefully a more ‘human friendly’ one, but pretty much any change, really. Seemingly, kids could make their own way to school if their parents and teachers felt safe letting them cycle and walk, so it’s a question of distance, infrastructure and traffic law enforcement. But in practice it’s to do with school projects, parents’ commuting patterns and whole series of reasons behind reasons, from house prices to the ubiquity of two working parents to mortgage lenders to media hysteria and so on and so forth. It calls for a complete overhaul of society!

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