A School Crossing Patrol (SCP) officer from Worthing has spoken of her shock after a motorist injured her by not stopping as she helped a child cross the road. Antonia Gawn had her lollipop stick broken in two when the car failed to stop for her at her patrol in Ham Road.
The accident left her with an aching arm and is symptomatic of an alarming rise in ‘drive throughs’ at school crossing patrols reported to West Sussex County Council in recent months.
Antonia, who helps children from Lyndhurst First School, Springfield First School, Chesswood Middle School, Davison High School, and St Andrew’s High School for Boys cross the busy junction, revealed motorists drive through her patrol when she is in the road “two or three times a day”.
She said: “I was with a young lad – I had the stick in one hand and I was waving at the driver saying ‘Stop! Stop!’”
“It wrenched my arm. I think it caught on the wing mirror and it took my arm with it.
“The day I had that accident I had a lot of drivers stopping and they could not believe a car had knocked my stick off.
“They were really incredulous that it had happened. They couldn’t believe it.”
The driver stopped down the road, but didn’t come back to speak to her.
It is an offence to drive past a SCP while they are in the road. If caught they will receive a fine and three points on their licence if caught – the same offence they would get driving through a red light.
Antonia has worked as a School Crossing Patrol for 16 years. In her opinion, the problem with drive throughs has never been worse and it was older, male drivers who were to blame.
She said: “A lot of them read the highway code when they are doing their test and then they forget about it.
“They don’t think I am allowed to cross adults over, when for the last 12 years I have been able to, so they are quite happy to go past me when I am trying to cross an adult who is picking their child up from school.
“They don’t know that the law has changed so we can cross anybody. They just think it is children. They just shout ‘that is not a child!’”
Their attitudes are in stark contrast to younger drivers, or delivery drivers, who in her experience are much more careful.
Antonia said: “A lot of young people do stop for me. I don’t know whether it is because they have got younger siblings at school or they have not long left school themselves.
“They do stop more than the older generation.
“A lot of the professional drivers are really good. They stop further away so I can cross people safely. The big lorries tend to stop, even if it is for one child.
“I had a big Eddie Stobart lorry that had nine cars on it and it stopped for me, whereas it’s cars that keep flying past.”
Another issue Antonia has to put up with on a regular basis is verbal abuse from drivers.
She said: “A few weeks back a man in a works van came around with a trailer in the back.
“I already had a lollypop stick up. I started walking into the road, so he screeched the horn and started calling me abusive names.
“The lad I was crossing had learning disabilities. The driver started shouting “he’s not a school kid, why are you crossing him?
“Most people don’t open the window – they just sit in their cars mouthing things that I can’t hear.
“I try to let it go over my head and try to not worry too much about it.”
County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, Pieter Montyn, said: “It is alarming to hear from our School Crossing Patrols that people are ignoring them when they step out in the road to help people cross.
“People have to understand.
“If they are caught driving through school crossing patrols they will be prosecuted – the safety of our children is paramount.”
He added: “School crossing patrols are vital to keep children safe when they cross the road – please respect them.
“There is no excuse for any kind of abuse.”