13 October 2023

Wagga drivers ignore extended school zone as police conduct Bourke Street blitz

| Chris Roe
 Wagga's Bourke Street.

Despite a two-kilometre long school zone, drivers are failing to slow down on Wagga’s Bourke Street. Photo: Adam Drummond.

Residents along Wagga’s Bourke Street reckon things are getting hairy for pedestrians as reckless drivers continually ignore school zones and crossings.

Police were out in force as school students returned from holidays this week with several highway patrol vehicles staking out a spot near Mount Austin Public School on Thursday (12 October).

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A traffic controller told Region that people sped past the school every day and at least a handful of drivers would soon receive a fine after failing to slow down between 8 and 9:30 am and 2:30 and 4 pm.

Fines for speeding in a school zone start at $203 for drivers travelling 0 to 10 km over the limit, while a driver caught doing 60 km/h in a school zone will cop a $609 fine and four demerit points.

Police have been enforcing school zone limits along Wagga's Bourke Street.

Police have been enforcing school zone limits along Wagga’s Bourke Street. Photo: Adam Drummond.

In March 2020 the school zone on the busy four-lane road was extended after Wagga Wagga City Council raised concerns with Transport for NSW.

Following a review of Bourke Street between Fernleigh and Red Hill Roads, two school zones were merged into a single two-kilometre long 40 km/h stretch to increase safety.

At the time, Transport for NSW Director South West Lindsay Tanner said they had assessed a number of factors including crash history, nearby development, traffic mix and volumes.

“The change will provide a 40 km/h school zone for the length of Bourke Street which is an area with four schools and a heavy population of young pedestrians,” Mr Tanner said in 2020.

“The extension of the existing 40 km/h zone will provide a safer road environment for all road users with an increase in travel time of about 12 seconds.”

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But according to parents and locals, many drivers seem unaware of the lengthy slow zone and it remains a danger at peak times.

One mum explained that she walked her children to Mount Austin Public every week and described Bourke Street as “extremely hazardous” after witnessing a number of close calls.

She said the speeding extended beyond the school zones, with drivers hooning back and forwards along the stretch at all hours.

The mother also identified the crossing near the Tolland SUPA IGA as a dangerous spot and said she recently saw a woman on a mobility scooter struck by a vehicle.

Tolland resident Garry crosses Bourke Street every day with his dogs

Tolland resident Garry crosses Bourke Street every day with his dogs. Photo: Adam Drummond.

Tolland resident Garry uses the crossing near the IGA every day and said drivers ignored the signs.

“I almost get hit by cars every week while I walk my dogs,” he said, adding that he knew a man who had been killed there.

“The chap that used to live in the house along here, he died on the pedestrian crossing.”

The incident occurred in June 2021 when a 69-year-old man was struck by a car and later died in hospital.

In June of this year, Essential Energy began upgrades on the streetlights and will replace 43 of the suspended amber lights with steel streetlight columns that reach out from the curb.

The work is expected to be finished before the end of 2023.

What do you reckon about the Bourke Street school zone? Are enough drivers aware of the fact that the whole two-kilometre stretch is 40 km/h during school drop off and pick up?

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